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Coronavirus: the situation in Switzerland

Crowds at the “BEA” exhibition fair in Bern – the first post-pandemic edition took place between April 29 and May 8, 2022. © Keystone / Anthony Anex

Switzerland announced the lifting of all remaining Covid-19 pandemic restrictions as of April 1. The “acute phase” of the pandemic is over, said authorities. New infections continue to fall and fears have subsided that Covid-related hospitalisations may overwhelm the healthcare system.

This content was published on May 18, 2022 - 12:27

After two years of daily monitoring of the pandemic, we have decided, in view of the lifting of pandemic restrictions in Switzerland, that we will no longer follow news on the pandemic as closely. This article will therefore not be updated regularly.

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  • The number of new reported Covid-19 infections continues to fall. A total of 10,788 new cases were reported on May 17 for the previous seven-day period. The seven-day daily average for new infections stood at 1,593, down 16% on the previous week. A total of 471 people were in hospital due to Covid (-31%), of whom 44 were in intensive care (-6%). From April, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) will only communicate coronavirus statistics once a week rather than on a daily basis.
  • On March 30, the government announced that all remaining pandemic restrictions would be lifted on April 1. This includes the mask requirement in public transport and the mandatory five-day isolation requirement. Many other restrictionsExternal link had already been lifted on February 17. “We can’t say that the crisis is over, but we can certainly say that the acute phase of the crisis is over,” Interior Minister Alain Berset declared on March 30. Despite a rise in Covid cases in March, the country was “very much on track”, with the situation in hospitals “stable”, added Berset.
  • Patrick Mathys, the head of crisis management at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), declared on March 22: “Thanks to the high level of immunity, high numbers of cases can now be allowed without risking the health institutions being overburdened again.”
  • More than 12,700 people have died in connection with Covid-19 in Switzerland, which has a population of 8.7 million.
  • Around 69% of the population has received two doses of vaccine. The FOPH and the Federal Commission for Vaccination currently do not recommend a second booster jab.
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Latest measures

As of April 1, there are no more pandemic restrictions. On March 30, the government announced that the last remaining restrictions would be dropped, specifically the mask requirement in public transportation and health facilities, and the mandatory five-day isolation requirement after a positive coronavirus test.

Since February 17, people in Switzerland are no longer obliged to show a Covid certificate to enter bars, restaurants and other indoor venues such as sports facilities, theatres or concert halls. Covid certificates are still provided by the government for travel.

There is also no further restrictions on the size of private gatherings in Switzerland and large events no longer have to apply for authorisation. 

Masks are no longer mandatory in schools, shops, concert halls, at work or on public transport. Mandatory five-day isolation of people who tested positive for Covid-19 ended on March 31.

Kai Reusser / swissinfo.ch

From December 20External link to February 17, only people who had been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 were able to enter restaurants, cultural, sporting and leisure venues and attend indoor events (the “2G rule”). Masks also had to be worn in these settings and food and drink could only be consumed when seated.

What’s the situation?

The number of new coronavirus infections rose steeply from mid-October 2021 as colder weather brought more people inside and the more-contagious Omicron variant spread. On February 8, health experts announced that the number of new infections had peaked. 

“The epidemiological situation continues to develop positively,” the government said on February 16. “Thanks to the high level of immunity in the population, it is unlikely that the healthcare system will be overloaded despite the continued high level of virus circulation. Thus, the conditions are in place for a rapid normalisation of social and economic life.”

After falling steadily from a peak in late January, with the emergence of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant the number of new cases started rising again from mid-February until mid-March.

On March 30, the government announced that the acute phase of the crisis was over and that all remaining pandemic restrictions would be lifted on April 1, as the country seeks to live with the virus. 

"Thanks to the high level of immunisation of the population, there has been no marked increase in the number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care units in recent weeks, although the number of infections has risen again in the meantime," the government said on March 30.

"There is little likelihood of a public health threat in the coming months. However, the further course of the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be reliably estimated."

The coronavirus will most likely not disappear, the government said, but become endemic with seasonal waves of the virus likely in the future. Responsibility for containing the virus will be handed to local authorities, with a phase of heightened vigilance planned over the next 12 months.

More than 90% of Switzerland's population of 8.6 million people have gained protection from the virus, having either recovered from Covid-19 or been vaccinated. 

Authorities meanwhile continue to advise people to observe the applicable rules on hygiene and social distancingExternal link.

Vaccination and treatment

So far, four vaccines have been approved: Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, both of which have also been approved for use on teenagers aged 12 and older. The single-dose Janssen vaccine produced by Johnson & Johnson is also available. The latest to join the Swiss arsenal is protein-based Nuvaxovid vaccine produced by Novavax and approved on April 13. 

Authorities have ordered some 36 million vaccine doses from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Curevac and Novavax for the population of 8.6 million. In August the government signed another deal with Pfizer/BioNTech to supply vaccines for the next two years.

The Swiss health authorities have recommended extending anti-Covid vaccinations to children aged between five and 11. This should be introduced from January, officials said. 

The medicines regulator first authorised booster shots for vulnerable groups and people over 65 but has since extended boosters to anyone aged over 16. Booster shots from all three approved vaccines have also been authorised by Swissmedic as of December 27.

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Masks and testing

From April 1, masks are no longer compulsory on public transport or at healthcare facilities.

The requirement to wear face masks in schools, shops, concert halls, at work or in other public settings ended on February 17.

The government adopted an extended testing strategy along with a contact-tracing concept as it moved to ease social distancing measures. Swiss residents can also download the SwissCovid smartphone app, a contact-tracing system. This will also be phased out on April 1.

The government covers the costs of certain Covid-19 tests leading to a Covid certificate, as approved by parliament. Rapid antigen tests and saliva PCR pool tests (mass testing such as used in schools) are covered. Self-tests, individual PCR tests and antibody tests are not covered (although individual PCR tests are free for people with symptoms, are close contacts or were part of a positive test pool). 

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Travel to and from Switzerland 

The official government TravelcheckExternal link or State Secretariat for MigrationExternal link (SEM) websites have detailed information on who is allowed to enter Switzerland and under which conditions.

Since February 17, health-related measures for people entering the country have been lifted. It is no longer necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form, the government saidExternal link.

Entry requirements for travellers from non-Schengen countries deemed “high risk” by the SEM are however still subject to pandemic-related changes; these will be dropped as of May 2, at which point the situation at the border will be fully back to normal.

The Federal Office of Public Health also provides detailed information on entering SwitzerlandExternal link.

Swiss travellers planning to go abroad are advised to check entry conditions in the destination country or region. The foreign ministry has guidelines around travelling abroad during the pandemic, available hereExternal link in German, French, and Italian.

What’s the situation for Swiss citizens living abroad?

Anyone who has a Swiss passport or a valid Swiss residence permit can enter Switzerland at any time.

Under the Swiss Abroad Act, External linkSwiss nationals living abroad cannot claim the right to an organised departure from a crisis area. 

All Swiss representations abroad remain accessible to Swiss citizens, and its helpline of the ministry is operationalExternal link

Financial consequences

The government has set aside more than CHF65 billion ($70.6 billion) to support the economy, as a large part of activity in the country came to a standstill in 2020-2021. Some CHF40 billion was made available in emergency loans for struggling companies. The government has also presented a plan to offer additional loans totalling up to CHF154 million for start-ups.

The promised economic package provides relief for companies with liquidity problems to obtain transitional bank loans. Companies hit by the crisis can defer payment of social insurance contributions temporarily and without interest. These measures also apply to self-employed persons whose turnover has fallen.

The government also threw a lifeline to businesses threatened by bankruptcy. Firms can delay declaring their financial difficulties to the courts, with smaller companies being given at least a three-month grace period to pay off their debts.

There is also money to cover the imposition of short-time work at firms while other funds have been set aside for hardship loans and to support specific sectors such as event management. Around CHF1.6 billion in such hardship loans had been paid out to almost 20,000 companies by the beginning of April, according to the economics ministry. Partial unemployment claims have increased sharply due to the pandemic and are expected to continue to rise.

The government agreed an additional CHF14.2 billion in financing for unemployment insurance, announcing it would begin easing out extraordinary measures granting unemployment and short-term work benefits to more people. 

Following concerns voiced by the sports sector, the government also allocated CHF500 million for sports leagues, associations and organisations in the country. Among the biggest beneficiaries are the professional football and ice hockey leagues, which could receive as much as CHF350 million to shore up the 2020-2021 season.

Switzerland announced a CHF400 million aid package to developing countries. Half of the funds would go to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross as an interest-free loan, the foreign ministry said. Funds would also be provided to the International Monetary Fund and other international organisations helping developing countries during the crisis.

Where can I find further information on the implications of Covid-19?

SWI swissinfo.ch is keeping this story updated regularly with numbers of confirmed cases and deaths, as well as any new significant measures taken by the cantonal and federal authorities.

Unfortunately, we cannot research and answer individual questions. Please check the following official federal websites for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Infoline for people travelling to Switzerland: +41 58 464 44 88 (6am–11pm)

The State Secretariat for MigrationExternal link: updated information on the situation at Swiss borders, with a helpline to answer questions about reasons for the refusal of entry into Switzerland and exceptions.

The Swiss foreign ministryExternal link: information in French, German and Italian about the situation regarding foreign travel and the steps to be followed by Swiss citizens going abroad. 

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)External link: live updates of the national situation, as well as recommendations, public safety measures, and details of upcoming announcements.

The World Health Organization (WHO)External link: information on the origins and nature of Covid-19, as well as the global situation and travel advice.

Johns Hopkins UniversityExternal link: a global map that tracks the number of cases and fatalities by country.

Follow SWI swissinfo.ch hereExternal link, on FacebookExternal link, and on TwitterExternal link for timely updates on the situation in Switzerland.

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