Coronavirus: Fourth round of lifting restrictions from Monday goes further than originally planned

Bern, 26.05.2021 - A further round of lifting restrictions will take effect on Monday 31 May. The Federal Council is going further than proposed in the consultation, particularly with regard to events, private gatherings and restaurants. In so doing, it is responding to the improved epidemiological situation and the results of the consultation. People who have been vaccinated will now also be exempt from quarantine along with those who have recovered from COVID. At its meeting on 26 May, the Federal Council also decided when and under what conditions large-scale events can once again take place and how the organisers should be compensated if the events have to be cancelled for epidemiological reasons.

Coronavirus case numbers are continuing to fall. In addition, most cantons will have completed vaccinating people at especially high risk by the end of the month. This means that the protection phase, the first phase of the Federal Council’s exit strategy, has been completed. It can now move on to the second phase, the stabilisation phase, in which the entire adult population will have access to the vaccine. So as not to jeopardise the ongoing vaccination campaign, caution is still the order of the day. In particular, the voluntary use of rapid tests can help to further reduce infections.

In this fourth round of easing restrictions, the Federal Council is going somewhat further than originally planned in the consultation. In so doing, it is taking into account the favourable situation and responding to the feedback from the consultation. The cantons broadly welcome these steps and a majority also agree with the changes to the original proposals.

Public events: up to 100 people indoors and 300 people outdoors

For events with spectators or audiences, there will be a limit of 100 instead of 50 people indoors, and 300 instead of 100 people outdoors. Half of the capacity of venues may now be used instead of only a third as before. The same applies to religious events. In contrast to the proposal in the consultation, seats at public events do not have to be allocated; the wearing of masks and social distancing are sufficient.

At non-spectator and non-audience events such as club meetings or guided tours, the maximum number of people will be increased to 50 instead of 15 indoors and out. This also applies to private events such as weddings or birthday parties not held at private venues. In the consultation, the Federal Council had proposed a maximum of 30 people. There are no longer any restrictions on gatherings of people in public spaces.

Private gatherings: indoors 30 people, outdoors 50 people

The Federal Council is increasing the limits for private gatherings from 10 to 30 people indoors, and from 15 to 50 people outdoors. A large majority of the cantons insisted on this step. In the consultation, the Federal Council had not envisaged any changes for private gatherings.

Restaurants: indoor service allowed and tables for 6 outdoors

As of Monday, restaurants will once again be able to serve guests indoors. The following conditions apply: distancing or screens, no more than four people per table, contact details of all guests to be recorded, seating only. Tables for six are now allowed on outdoor seating areas. Establishments will no longer have to close between 11pm and 6am. Masks do not have to be worn while sitting at a table, but do have to be worn when moving around the premises indoors and out. Staff are required to wear a mask.

Food and drink may be consumed at public events while seated as long as the contact details of all those present are recorded. Public events such as public screenings or concerts are allowed to take place at restaurants as long as all requirements applicable to catering establishments are respected. Such events can be attended by up to 100 people indoors and 300 people outdoors.

Amateur sports: larger groups, spectators allowed at matches and competitions

A maximum of 50 people instead of 15 will be allowed to play sport together. Spectators will also be permitted. The rules for public events apply. Matches for team sports may only be held outdoors. Contact sports and activities such as partner dancing and wrestling are only permitted indoors without masks in fixed groups of four people. The space requirement for gentle sporting activities carried out indoors (e.g. yoga) will be reduced from 15 to 10 square metres per person.

Thermal baths and spa facilities may reopen. Activities can be carried out without masks, but while observing social distancing rules and with 15 square metres per person. The same rules apply for indoor swimming pools.   

Cultural activities: larger groups allowed

As with sport, the maximum group size for cultural activities will also be increased to 50 people. Amateur cultural performances are now allowed. The rules for public events apply. The space requirement for brass bands will be reduced from 25 to 10 square metres per person. Amateur and professional choir performances will once again be allowed.

Higher education, professional education and continuing education institutions: more face-to-face teaching possible

The 50-person limit for face-to-face teaching will be lifted at higher education, professional education and continuing education institutions, provided there is a testing plan in place and authorisation is obtained from the cantonal authorities. Capacity restrictions no longer apply. Face masks must be worn and social distancing rules still apply.   

No requirement to work from home for businesses that conduct regular tests

Working from home will be a recommendation rather than a requirement for businesses that carry out weekly testing. A return to the office should be gradual so as not to jeopardise the vaccination process of staff. Since 18 January, employers have been required to instruct staff to work from home depending on the type of activity and where practicable. Once everyone who so wishes has been vaccinated (start of normalisation phase), the rules on working from home will be eased without further restrictions. The rules to protect people at high risk in the workplace will remain in place.

No quarantine for those already vaccinated or recovered from COVID

People who have recovered from COVID are exempt from contact and travel quarantine for a period of six months. Given that people who have been vaccinated cannot transmit the virus to a relevant extent, they too are now exempt from contact and travel quarantine for a period of six months, as well as from the requirement to be tested and provide contact details on arrival in Switzerland, as long as they have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved in Switzerland or by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). People under the age of 16 are also exempt from travel quarantine and the requirement to be tested on arrival in Switzerland. The exemptions from travel quarantine and the requirement to be tested do not apply to people who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID arriving from countries with virus variants of significant concern.

Further round of reopening before the summer

Because more restrictions than originally planned are to be lifted at the end of May, the intention now is to have just one further round of reopening before the summer break. This move is also supported by the cantons; it will make it easier to monitor the effects of this round of steps and means that the relevant legislation does not have to be amended several times within a short period. The Federal Council is expected to send out the next package of steps in easing restrictions for consultation on 11 June, before taking a decision on 23 or 30 June. This package will apply from 1 July.

Large-scale events with over 1,000 people

At its meeting today, the Federal Council also decided when and under what conditions large-scale events may once again be allowed to take place and how the organisers should be compensated if the events, authorised by the cantons, are not able to go ahead for epidemiological reasons (protective shield rules). It amended its proposals following the consultation but is still pursuing a three-step plan.

Step 1: Pilot events from 1 June

Pilot events will be possible from 1 June. A maximum of 600 people will be able to attend indoor events, as proposed in the consultation. Outdoor pilot events may be attended by up to 1,000 people instead of the 600 originally planned. Five instead of three pilot events can be held per canton. In order for the first pilot events to be approved as quickly as possible, the corresponding ordinance will come into force tomorrow. The requirement to wear a face mask when seated at an outdoor event will be lifted.

Step 2: Large-scale events from 1 July

Large-scale events will once again be possible from 1 July. The maximum number of people at indoor events remains at 3,000, as originally proposed. Large-scale events outdoors with compulsory seating and two-thirds capacity can now be attended by a maximum of 5,000 instead of 3,000 people, contrary to the preliminary draft. At outdoor events with standing room, such as open-air festivals, a maximum of 3,000 people are allowed, using half the available capacity and a mask requirement.

Admission to large-scale events is restricted to people who have been fully vaccinated, who have recovered from COVID, or who can provide proof of a negative test result. The COVID certificate will be used as soon as it becomes available.

Step 3: Large-scale events from 20 August with up to 10,000 people

Large-scale events will be able to take place with a maximum of 10,000 people from 20 August. In the consultation, the proposed date was 1 September. There will be no capacity restrictions for indoor events. There will be no spectator limit at outdoor events with compulsory seating. The third step is closely linked to the entry into the stabilisation phase, when all persons wishing to be vaccinated have been.

‘Protective shield’: deductible and excess reduced

In order to support the staging of events of supra-cantonal significance, in its spring session Parliament introduced a ‘protective shield’ for the events industry in Art. 11a of the COVID-19 Act. This allows public events to be planned even before it is clear whether or not the epidemiological situation allows them to go ahead. The federal government and the cantons contribute to the unmet costs of events that have to be cancelled or postponed due to the pandemic.

In order to benefit from this compensation, the public event concerned must have been approved by the canton and covered by the ‘protective shield’. Furthermore, the event must be expected to attract visitors from outside the canton in which it is to take place and be attended by at least 1,000 people a day.

The organiser bears a deductible of CHF 5,000 per event for the uncovered costs and an excess of 10 per cent of the remaining amount. The Federal Council reduced the amount of the deductible and excess following the consultation. If the cantons bear half of the uncovered costs, the Confederation will cover the other half. The Confederation and the cantons contribute a maximum of CHF 5 million per event. This applies to events between 1 June 2021 and 30 April 2022. A legal basis for implementation has yet to be put in place in most cantons.

Trade and public fairs

Capacity restrictions on large-scale trade and public fairs are to be aligned with those applicable to shopping centres. In order for trade and public fairs to be able to benefit from the ‘protective shield’, such events must now be approved by the relevant cantonal authorities.


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