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Switzerland: Government Adopts More Stringent Measures to Contain Spread of Coronavirus

(Mar. 16, 2020) On March 13, 2020, the Swiss Federal Council­—the Swiss government—­adopted a second regulation that aims to prevent or contain the spread of COVID-19 in Switzerland, reduce or prevent the risk of transmission, protect especially vulnerable people, and safeguard the capacities of Switzerland to cope with the epidemic. Of particular concern is ensuring an adequate supply of care and medications. The regulation is based on article 6, paragraph 2, letter b and article 77 of the Epidemics Act, as well as on article 184, paragraph 3 and article 185, paragraph 3 of the Swiss Constitution. The new regulation, which entered into force on March 13, 2020 at 3:30 pm Swiss time, repeals the earlier regulation of February 28, 2020, and will remain in force for as long as necessary, but not longer than 6 months. (COVID-19 Regulation 2, arts. 11, 12.)

As of March 13, 2020, 1,125 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Seven people have died.

Content of the Second Regulation

Travel Restrictions

The new regulation restricts travel to Switzerland from risk countries and risk regions whose governments have taken extraordinary measures to prevent and combat the COVID-19 epidemic, meaning countries that border Switzerland, in this case, Italy. (Art. 2 & annex.) The border control agency will refuse entry to all persons wishing to enter from a risk country with the following exceptions:

  • They are Swiss citizens.
  • They are in possession of a Swiss residence permit or similar document.
  • They have a professional reason to enter Switzerland and are in possession of a registration certificate.
  • They are transporting goods and have a goods delivery certificate.
  • They are only transiting through Switzerland with the intention to directly travel to another country.
  • They are in a situation of “urgent need.”

The border control agency has discretion with regard to what constitutes an urgent need. (Art. 3.) The Swiss Federal Department of Home Affairs is authorized to restrict air travel from risk countries. (Art. 4.)

Prohibition of In-Person Classes

Schools, universities, and other educational facilities are prohibited from conducting in-person classes. Exams that have already been scheduled may take place provided that appropriate safety measures are taken. The cantons may arrange child care services for elementary schools. (Art. 5.)

Prohibition of Events of 100 People or More

The new regulation prohibits public and private events of 100 people or more in Switzerland. Public and private events with less than 100 people may take place if the following precautions are taken:

  • Measures to exclude persons who are sick or feel sick
  • Measures to protect especially vulnerable persons
  • Measures to inform the people present about general safety measures like hand hygiene, social distancing, or cough and cold hygiene
  • Modification of the localities to ensure compliance with hygienic rules (COVID-19, art. 6, paras. 1, 2.)

The prohibition also applies to amusement and recreational facilities—in particular, museums, sport facilities, gyms, swimming pools, and wellness centers. (Art. 6, para. 3.) Restaurants and bars, as well as discotheques and night clubs, are not allowed to accommodate more than 50 people at the same time. The recommendations of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health regarding hygiene and social distancing must be complied with. (Art. 6, para. 4.)

Exceptions from the prohibition to hold events of 100 people or more may be granted by the cantonal authorities when overriding public interests require it—for example, for events to exercise political rights or for education, or when the event organizer/operator presents a protection concept that includes prevention measures as outlined in article 6, paragraph 2. (Art. 7.)

The cantonal authorities are authorized to make unannounced inspections of businesses and localities. (Art. 8.) The cantons are in charge of monitoring the measures taken according to articles 5 and 6. (Art. 9.)

Reporting Requirements

Lastly, the cantonal authorities must report the following:

  • Total number and capacity of hospital beds
  • Total number and capacity of hospital beds that are meant to treat COVID-19 patients
  • Total number and capacity of intensive care hospital beds
  • Total number and capacity of machines for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO)
  • Numbers of personal protection materials, particularly hygiene masks, respiratory masks, gloves, gowns, and protective glasses
  • Information on availability of medical and care personnel in hospitals
  • Maximum capacity of hospitals to treat patients—particularly the total number of patients and total number of COVID-19 patients—taking into account the number of beds and personnel. (Art. 10.)