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Switzerland’s latest easing of Covid measures allows large political protests, provided masks worn

© Michael Müller |

On 19 June 2020, Switzerland’s extraordinary state in relation to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic ended. This was accompanied by further easing of restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

Hand washing, maintaining social distance and mask wearing are the three golden rules that remain, according to Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga.

The minimum distance to be maintained between people in public spaces was reduced to 1.5 metres. However, Alain Berset, Switzerland’s interior minister, said that spending 15 minutes 1.5 metres from someone still increases the risk of infection. If the 1.5 metre rule cannot be followed then contacts must be recorded, he added.

In addition, customers in restaurants and bars are no longer required to be seated, and the closing time limits no longer apply. Until recently these establishments had to be closed between midnight and 6am.

The ban on public gatherings of up to 30 people was also lifted from 22 June 2020.

The maximum number of people allowed at events, such as weddings and exhibitions, rises from 300 to 1,000. However, groups over 300 must be broken down into subgroups of no more than 300 and contacts must be traceable. Cantons can impose stricter rules than those mandated by the federal government if they deem it necessary.

Gatherings of more than 1,000 people remain banned until at least 31 August 2020, although an exception has been made for political and civic protests where participants are legally required to wear masks, something particularly important given that shouting, chanting and singing create and project a lot of droplets that are known to spread the virus. Political demonstrations with up to 300 people have been allowed since 6 June 2020, a rule that some have broken.

The exception for political protests makes little sense from an epidemiological perspective. The virus makes no distinction between those gathering to protest and those gathering for another reason. Tracing contacts could be difficult given the public nature of protest. And there is a risk that protest attendees shout and chant without masks, despite the legal requirement to wear them. Few protestors wore masks at recent US-inspired demonstrations in Switzerland.

In addition, Switzerland’s federal government ended the recommendation that workers work from home, including recommendations specifically related to vulnerable workers. These decisions now fall on employers, who continue to be responsible for protecting the health of their employees in the workplace.

The rules change for construction sites and sports involving physical contact too. Sports involving physical contact are no longer banned from 22 June 2020.

In many ways the ending of the extraordinary situation shifts the responsibility for limiting the spread of SARS-CoV-2 to cantons and employers. Going forward, the rules and measures deployed to contain the spread of the virus will increasingly vary from canton to canton and from workplace to workplace.

Shifting responsibility to employers might affect the job market. People with high-risk health profiles might be overlooked in favour of younger hires. It also poses new legal questions. Who is liable if one employee’s risky behaviour outside work leads them to catch SARS-CoV-2 and infect another careful employee at work? This question matters even more if infection results in long term lung or heart damage, strokes and blood clotting, something that is now known to occur in some Covid-19 patients.

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About Le News
Le News
The newspaper Le News is a free, quality, local English language newspaper launched on 31 October 2013. Le News fills a gap in local Swiss media for the numerous English-speakers living and visiting Switzerland. In late January 2015 we decided to put our print medium on hold and focus on our digital media presence.
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