Swiss parliamentary session to go ahead despite Covid-19 spike

Plexiglass is cleaned during the autumn session of parliament Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

The special session of the House of Representatives scheduled for next Thursday and Friday will still take place, despite the steep rise in coronavirus cases. Masks will be obligatory.

This content was published on October 23, 2020 - 16:32

This has been confirmed by Karin Burkhalter, parliamentary services head of information, to the Keystone-SDA news agency.

On Friday there were 6,634 new coronavirus cases in Switzerland, continuing the steep rise in infections during the week. This makes the country more badly affected than its neighbours: it now has 495 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Only France approaches these levels at 450 cases per 100,000.

Several cantons – which are in charge of coronavirus measures - on Friday tightened their anti-Covid prevention, including placing limits on big events and small public and private gatherings.

Burkhalter said there would be obligatory face masks at the session “for circulating in the meeting areas and parliamentary chambers”. But masks could be taken off if sitting behind plexiglass.

In order to protect the members of the Senate and House of Representatives, plexiglass partitions were installed between the seats of their chambers for September’s autumn parliamentary sessions. But parliamentarians were not obliged to wear masks for that session.

The special session will take place because parliamentarians have a heavy timetable of coronavirus-related measures to debate. This includes a regulation on business rents that was applied during the lockdown and the COVID 19 Joint and Several Guarantee OrdinanceExternal link to provide Swiss companies with liquidity. This went into force in March via an emergency decree but it needs retrospective application into law.

Although it is not currently taking the lead on coronavirus measures, the government has imposed some nationwide rules, such as the compulsory wearing of masks in public buildings. It is set to make a fresh set of announcements on Wednesday, a day before the session is due to start.

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