Switzerland is returning to a new normal

Mon, 04. May. 2020
From 11 May, restaurants will be allowed to serve guests again under strict conditions. In a first stage, a maximum of four guests per table or parents with their own children are allowed. (Photograph: Archive/Anita Moser)

The road back to normality is taking shape: Not only the obligatory schools and shops open on 11 May, but also restaurants, museums and libraries. Distance and hygiene regulations still apply until further notice, and gatherings of more than five people will remain prohibited.

"We are taking a middle course in Switzerland", stressed Simonetta Sommaruga, President of the Swiss Confederation, to the media last week. The path the Federal Council has taken since the beginning of the Corona crisis. "We have tried to reconcile the protection of the population and the needs of the economy. We are neither reckless nor over-cautious, but remain realistic. We don't open rashly, but step by step." The main objective of the first phase was to contain the spread of the virus. Thanks to the collaboration in the population, that could be achieved. "Now we're in a new phase: We must learn to live with the virus." Even now, the Federal Council wants to proceed step by step, "because it still takes time before there is a vaccination and medication against the virus".

Step by step
Since 27 April, hairdressers, DIY stores, flower shops or physiotherapy practices have been open. The Federal Council announced that from 11 May, all shops as well as the compulsory schools will be able to open again. Because the spread of infection is slowing down, the Federal Council decided to relax the measures for culture, sports and the gastronomy. From 8 June, further areas will follow in a third step.

Simonetta Sommaruga: "The prerequisite for any further step is, however, that there is no setback. Therefore, the rules of conduct remain important: wash your hands and keep your distance." Every opening is linked to a set of precautionary measures. "All businesses and facilities must have a concept based either on their industry or on the specifications of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco)," writes the Federal Council.

Restaurants may open on 11 May
Restaurants are allowed to open as early as 11 May – but only under strict conditions. "Hygiene and distance rules must be observed," emphasised federal councillor Alain Berset. The establishments must present a protection concept. In a first stage, a maximum of four guests per table or parents with their own children are allowed. There must be a two-metre gap between the groups of guests or separating elements and the guests must be seated. "This is the only way to implement it," Berset emphasised. The Federal Council will decide on further steps on 27 May, he said, depending on further developments.

All shops and markets will also be able to reopen on 11 May. The implementation should not pose any major problems. "The protection concepts already exist and there is already experience with the grocery stores." Berset warned that more patience is needed. "Keeping your distance also means having to wait."

Museums, libraries, archives, gyms can also open from 11 May. In these facilities, the rules of distance and hygiene can be easily implemented and the flow of people can be well channelled, Berset explained. Botanical gardens and zoos, however, will remain closed until 8 June.

Primary and secondary schools will be allowed to provide face-to-face teaching again from 11 May. To this end, the FOPH, together with the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Ministers of Education, has defined guidelines for protection concepts, the authorities informed. The scientific advisory board (Science Taskforce) and other experts were also consulted. "The cantons and municipalities will regulate the implementation by 11 May, taking into account local conditions", Berset emphasised. The schools were given the opportunity to organise classroom teaching flexibly.

Sports training courses possible from 11 May
Measures are also being relaxed in the sports sector. Minister of sport Viola Amherd: "From 11 May onwards, it will again be possible in mass sports to train in small groups of a maximum of five people, without physical contact and in compliance with the rules of hygiene and distance." Mountain guides can resume their work and swimming pools can be opened, provided that they observe the hygiene and distance measures, as Amherd explained. In competitive sports there are less severe restrictions, in particular, training sessions may also take place with more than five people. The Federal Council also plans to allow games in the professional leagues from 8 June 2020.

Major events prohibited until the end of August
Large events with more than 1000 people will remain prohibited until the end of August 2020. Berset explained that the Federal Council wanted to create planning security in this way. The risk of transmission at major events too big and it is not possible to trace an infection. In most cases, hygiene measures and distance regulations could not be observed. The Federal Council will reassess the situation before the summer holidays. It will take into account the policies of other states. On 27 May it will also decide when smaller events with less than 1000 people will be possible again.

Entry restrictions to be gradually eased
The Federal Council wants to gradually relax the corona-based entry restrictions in parallel with the economic opening stages, as federal councillor Karin Keller-Sutter explained. As of 11 May, applications submitted by workers from the EU/EFTA area and from third countries before 25 March will be processed first. From this date, it should also be possible for Swiss and EU citizens to rejoin their families in Switzerland. "Border controls, however, will remain in place." The Federal Council advises against holiday plans abroad. "I call on the Swiss people to spend their holidays in Switzerland", said Keller-Sutter. 

Masks recommended where the distance cannot be maintained
Public transport services will be increased again from 11 May. More passengers can therefore be expected. The authorities and the SBB recommend wearing a mask wherever the distance cannot be maintained.

A new normal
"We are partially returning to normal everyday life, but it is another normality than we were used to," Berset emphasised. "A lot of things will be loosened up on 11 May, but this can only work if everyone participates and if everyone continues to observe the rules of hygiene and distance. If the whole population participates, if everyone takes responsibility, we have a good chance for a positive development.”

Based on AvS/Anita Moser 



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