Coronavirus: Federal Council to lift measures – mask requirement on public transport and in healthcare institutions and isolation in the event of illness to remain until end of March

Bern, 16.02.2022 - From Thursday, 17 February, masks and COVID certificates will no longer be required to enter shops, restaurants, cultural venues and other public settings and events. The requirement to wear masks in the workplace and the recommendation to work from home will also end. At its meeting on 16 February, the Federal Council took the decision to lift the majority of measures in place to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Only the requirements to isolate in the event of a positive test and to wear masks on public transport and in healthcare institutions will remain in place until the end of March to protect those at high risk, after which the situation status will return to normal.

The epidemiological situation continues to develop positively. Thanks to the high level of immunity among the population, it is unlikely that the healthcare system will be overburdened despite the continued high level of virus circulation. For the Federal Council, this means that the conditions are in place for a rapid normalisation of social and economic life. After consulting the cantons, the social partners, the parliamentary committees and the associations concerned, it is lifting most of the measures in place to combat the pandemic. Since May 2021, it has based its
measures on available capacity in the healthcare system.

Consultation: Majority for swift lifting of measures
On 2 February, the Federal Council submitted two options for lifting measures for consultation. A clear majority of respondents came out in favour of lifting most of the remaining measures with immediate effect. At the same time, they favoured retaining the requirement to wear masks in healthcare institutions and on public transport as long as infection rates remain high.

From 17 February: Almost all measures lifted
From Thursday, 17 February, the following protective measures will be lifted throughout Switzerland:
- mask requirement in shops, restaurants, as well as in other public settings (facilities, venues and events)
- mask requirement in the workplace
- access restrictions regulated by COVID certificate (3G, 2G and 2G+-rule) to facilities and venues such as cinemas, theatres and restaurants, as well as events
- permit requirement for large-scale events
- restrictions on private gatherings

In agreement with the Federal Council, voluntary capacity restrictions in the retail sector and in cablecars and gondolas will be lifted.

Recommendation to work from home lifted - employers still responsible for protecting staff
The recommendation issued by the FOPH to work from home is also lifted. Employers are therefore free to determine whether staff should work from home or wear masks in the workplace. However, under employment law, they are required to take the necessary steps to protect staff.
Rules to protect employees at especially high risk will remain in place until the end of March.

Isolation and mask requirement in certain settings until 31 March
Given that infection rates remain very high and that the virus can still cause severe cases of illness, the Federal Council is maintaining two protective measures in the COVID-19 Special Situation Ordinance until the end of March. Depending on the epidemiological situation, an earlier lifting of the measures is possible.

Persons who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 will still be required to isolate. This is to prevent people who are highly infectious from infecting others.

The mask requirement on public transport and in healthcare institutions will remain in place. Residents of old people's and nursing homes are exempt. The cantons are free to impose stricter protective measures or to exempt certain institutions from the mask requirement. Individual establishments may still stipulate that visitors must wear a mask, for example in medical practices or hairdressing salons.

End of special situation on 1 April
The provisions of the COVID-19 Special Situation Ordinance on isolation and the mask requirement on public transport and in healthcare institutions will still apply until the end of March. If the epidemiological situation continues to evolve as expected, the ordinance will expire on 1 April and the situation status will return to normal.

Provisions based on the federal government's powers under the Epidemics Act (e.g. on international travel and on covering the costs of therapeutic products) will also remain in force. Legal provisions on COVID certificates and the coverage of test costs based on the COVID-19 Act will also remain in force.

EU-compatible COVID certificates will still be issued
The lifting of the certificate requirement means that COVID certificates valid only in Switzerland will no longer be issued. These ‘Swiss' COVID certificates were introduced last autumn to allow further groups of people to access facilities, venues and events subject to a certificate requirement.

However, the Swiss authorities will continue to issue COVID certificates recognised by the EU. It must be assumed that other countries will continue to require a COVID certificate for travel and in other settings. The cantons will, as they requested, still be able to impose a certificate requirement.

Changes with regard to testing
The general recommendation for repetitive testing in companies will no longer apply and its funding will end. Repetitive testing will only continue to be funded in certain, narrowly defined areas, such as in healthcare and socio-medical institutions, and in companies involving
in maintaining critical infrastructure that are specified by the cantons. This will help to protect people who are at especially high risk. It will also prevent large numbers of staff from being absent due to illness and isolation.

For schools, the recommendation for repetitive testing and its funding by the federal government will remain until the end of March, as virus circulation among younger age groups remains very high. The cost of individual tests will continue to be covered: antigen tests in all cases, and PCR tests for people with symptoms or after close contact with people who have tested positive.

Loss of earnings payments to continue for certain groups of people
Once measures are lifted, there will no longer be a need for most economic support measures. Therefore, claims for loss of earnings as a result of business closures, event bans, reduced working hours and a shortfall in outside care will no longer be possible from 17 February.  

An exception applies until 30 June for persons working in the events sector whose employment is significantly restricted due to measures to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. An exception also applies until the end of March for persons who have to interrupt work due to their need to protect themselves. Overall, the rapid lifting of measures should result in a reduction in expenditure of several hundred million Swiss francs
compared to the budgeted amounts.

Changes to entry rules
Health-related measures for persons entering the country are to be lifted. It will no longer be necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form.

Changes regarding coverage of costs for therapeutic products in out-patient treatment
For the time being, the funding of new therapeutic products that can be used to treat COVID-19 patients at risk of severe illness will be covered by the federal government. The corresponding therapeutic products are listed in the Annex to the Epidemics Ordinance.

Science Task Force advisory mandate to end on 31 March
The Science Task Force's advisory mandate will end earlier than scheduled at the end of March at its own request. The current advisory mandate is limited until the end of May. In light of the positive developments, the need for scientific advice is changing. Individual members of the Science Task Force will continue to be available to the Federal Council and the Federal Administration for consultation.

Since spring 2020, the Science Task Force has offered its scientific expertise. The Federal Council thanks the task force members for their outstanding work. The guidance offered by the Science Task Force has been invaluable in managing the pandemic.


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