Swiss to allow mass events from October despite spike in Covid cases

Crowds of more than 1,000 people are currently banned in Switzerland due to Covid-19. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Switzerland has decided to authorise large-scale public events of more than 1,000 people from the start of October. Sports matches, concerts and other events will have to comply with special measures to combat the threat of coronavirus and apply to cantons for a permit.

This content was published on August 12, 2020, ug

The number of people attending events has been restricted since February 28. This rule had applied until the end of this month but has now been extended until the end of September. This was done to give the 26 cantons, which have wide-ranging autonomy in Switzerland's decentralised system, more time to put contact tracing systems into place.

However, from October 1 events with larger crowds can go ahead provided they meet basic hygiene and social distancing measures, the government announced on Wednesday. More guidelines based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation and the government’s Science Task Force will be announced later.

"We want to boost cooperation between the federal authorities and the cantons but remain flexible to adapt the rules depending on the situation," said President Simonetta Sommaruga during  a news conference.

Interior Minister Alain Berset whose portfolio includes health matters said there are no ready-made solutions and that clear rules must be defined to decide on a case-by-case basis which events will be allowed and under what circumstances. 

Increasing pressure

The government said the lifting of crowd restrictions takes into account “society’s need for a varied programme of cultural and sporting events, as well as economic interests. Not all large-scale events pose the same level of risk. There are large-scale events at which the minimum distance between people can largely be respected.”

Events companies, and in particular sports clubs and associations, have been lobbying for crowd restrictions to be lifted, arguing that many clubs and firms would go bust if the 1,000-person limit remains in force for much longer.

The move comes despite recommendations by the government's Covid-19 taskforce not to ease the restrictions for mass events.

But the government said the restriction will not be lifted if the rate of infections worsens. The number of new cases was 274 on Wednesday, bringing total infections to more than 37,000 since the pandemic broke in Switzerland. More than 1,700 people have died of Covid-19 in Switzerland.

Berset stressed that the current situation was "under control". Both he and President Sommaruga appealed on citizens to take added responsibility.

"The situation could change quickly but we must learn to live with the virus for some time," said Berset. 

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