Senior Swiss medical official recommends wider mask obligation

The wearing, or not, of protective masks has been one of the most debated pandemic topics in Switzerland. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Masks should be worn not only in public transport, but in all public spaces, the president of the Swiss cantonal doctors association said on Thursday.

This content was published on July 2, 2020 - 11:09

“From an epidemiological perspective, widening the obligation to the entire public space would be possible, and we would welcome it,” Rudolf Hauri told Swiss public broadcaster SRF.

On Wednesday, the government announced that a general obligation to wear protective masks on public transport would enter into force next week. Beyond public transport, a recommendation is still in place to wear a mask when the minimum social distancing of 1.5 metres can’t be maintained – but there is no rule in place.

Also on Wednesday, the Covid-19 task force – a scientific group advising the government on the pandemic – recommended that the authorities take more measures. Up to now the wearing of masks has not been widespread in Switzerland, while the government has been reluctant to enforce this on the population.

It could be made mandatory in settings “where distancing cannot be ensured and the presence of individuals is not entirely a matter of choice for them”, the task force wrote. As well as public transport, they mentioned medical institutions and food stores.

Not taking such measures, the task force said, “is, we believe, likely to contribute to the emergence of a second intense wave of Covid-19 in Switzerland”.

The number of daily new coronavirus cases climbed above three figures to 137 on Wednesday. Since mid-June, the task force said, the reproductive rate for Covid-19 has been well above 1: meaning that every person infected then spreads the virus to more than one other.

Commenting on these figures on Thursday, Hauri said that cantons are still able to manually carry out contact tracing for each new case reported, although it is a “big challenge”. An SRF survey of cantonal doctors found they could still manually trace the chain of infections even if new numbers were to climb above 200.

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