Coronavirus: consultation on second phase of reopening despite precarious situation

Bern, 12.03.2021 - It is currently unclear how the epidemic will develop. Case numbers have now been rising for several days, as is the case in several neighbouring countries. There are signs that this could be the start of a third wave. At its meeting on 12 March, the Federal Council decided to begin consultations on a second phase of reopening, as announced on 24 February. If the epidemiological situation allows, from 22 March events with spectators or audiences will be allowed with restrictions, as well as gatherings at home involving up to ten people, and sporting and cultural activities in groups. Restaurants will be allowed to open outdoor seating areas. It has not yet been decided when the second phase of reopening might be permitted or what form it would take. The Federal Council will decide on further steps at its meeting on 19 March. It has also confirmed its decision that the Confederation will assume the costs of all rapid tests, including those of all asymptomatic cases.

The epidemiological situation remains extremely precarious and it is unclear how the situation will evolve. Switzerland may be facing a third wave of the pandemic. That is the presumption, although the impact of the first phase of reopening on 1 March cannot yet be assessed. For the Federal Council it is therefore unclear at the present time whether the epidemiological situation on 22 March will allow the second phase of reopening to go ahead. The general trend should become clearer over the coming days. The Federal Council will be guided in its decision by the indicator values. Values for three of the four indicators are currently being exceeded. In view of the uncertain epidemiological situation, the Federal Council has not yet determined when and in what form a third phase of opening can take place.

Events with spectators: outdoors with 150 people, indoors with 50 people
As announced, the Federal Council is sending out its proposals to the cantons for the second phase of reopening. Under the proposals, events with spectators or audiences will once again be allowed, albeit with restrictions. The maximum number of visitors will be limited to 150 people at outdoor venues - such as at football matches or open-air concerts - and 50 people indoors - such as at cinemas, theatres and concerts. Furthermore, attendance will be limited to a third of the venue's maximum capacity. There will be a seating requirement and masks must be worn at all times. A distance of 1.5 metres must be maintained between visitors at all times, or a seat left free. Food and drink will not be allowed and there should be no intervals.

Other events: maximum of 15 people
In addition to the private events and sporting and cultural activities already permitted, other events involving up to 15 people will also be allowed. This includes, for example, guided tours in museums, meetings of club members and other entertainment and leisure events.

Private gatherings at home involving up to 10 people
The limit for indoor gatherings of friends and family will be increased from 5 people to 10. It is recommended that private gatherings be limited to members of just a few households. Private outdoor gatherings are already limited to 15 people.

Restaurant outside seating areas to reopen
Restaurants and bars will be able to reopen their outside seating areas. Customers must be seated and masks may only be removed to consume food and drink. A maximum of four people will be allowed per table and each person's contact details must be recorded. Tables must be 1.5 metres apart or have a screen placed between them. Clubs and discos remain closed. The hospitality sector will continue to receive financial support; this does not depend on whether outside seating areas are permitted to reopen.

Publicly accessible facilities and businesses
Publicly accessible leisure and recreation facilities will also be allowed to reopen under similar conditions to shops and museums. This means that all areas of zoos and botanical gardens can open. Masks must always be worn in indoor areas and distancing rules respected. However, indoor areas of spa facilities and swimming pools are to remain closed.

Sporting and cultural activities for adults involving up to 15 people 
The restrictions regarding recreational sporting and cultural activities for adults are also to be eased for individuals or groups involving up to 15 people. When outdoors a mask must be worn or the required distance of 1.5 metres respected. When indoors it is necessary to wear a mask and respect distancing rules. Exceptions will be made for activities where it is not possible to wear a mask, such as during endurance training in fitness centres, or when singing in a choir. Prior testing is recommended. Sports involving physical contact will be permitted outdoors if a mask is worn, but will still not be permitted indoors. Matches and competitions are not permitted in any sports. It is still recommended that sporting and cultural activities take place outdoors.

Face-to-face teaching at higher and continuing education institutions
Face-to-face teaching will once again be allowed on a limited basis in post-compulsory schooling. There may be no more than 15 people in a class and the room may not be filled beyond a third of its capacity. Face masks must be worn and social distancing rules apply.

Face mask wearing relaxed for care home residents; reduced quarantine requirement for businesses
Care home residents who have been vaccinated will no longer be required to wear masks. For businesses, if 80 per cent of staff physically present at the workplace are tested at least once a week, the requirement to quarantine after contact with an infected person will be lifted. The requirement to quarantine after contact with an infected person will be lifted for people who have been vaccinated.

More widespread testing: plans confirmed following consultation
After consulting the cantons, the Federal Council decided at its meeting on 12 March to expand the testing strategy without making any significant changes to the plans. Greater prevention, early identification of local outbreaks and more widespread testing will mean that restrictions on economic and social life can be lifted sooner. From 15 March, the Confederation will assume the costs of rapid tests at all authorised testing centres, including for people without symptoms. As soon as reliable self-tests become available, everyone will be able to obtain five self-tests a month. In addition, businesses and schools will be able to conduct pool testing free of charge.

Alert apps in Switzerland and Germany to be made interoperable
Finally, the Federal Council today approved an amendment to the Proximity Tracing System Ordinance along with an agreement with the Robert Koch Institute in Germany. The amendment creates a legal basis allowing the SwissCovid app to be interoperable with Germany's Corona-Warn app. Today, cross-border commuters have to have both apps installed on their mobile phones and activate either one or the other depending on where they are. It is not technically possible to have both apps activated at the same time. As soon as the apps are interoperable, it will no longer be necessary to have both apps installed. Swiss app users will then be notified if they have been in contact with someone using the German app who has tested positive.

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Federal Office of Public Health
Coronavirus Infoline +41 58 463 00 00
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The Federal Council

Federal Office of Public Health

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