The corona pandemic in Switzerland

Timeline since April 2020

The Federal Council started lifting coronavirus restrictions in Switzerland at the end of April, before ending the lockdown at the beginning of June. However, the number of new infections rose again as society reopened. Protective measures were consequently reinforced at the beginning of July. Apart from new nationwide rules such as mandatory face masks on public transport, additional restrictions apply in some cantons. Here are the key points in our latest COVID-19 timeline.

The following timeline covers the key coronavirus-related milestones in Switzerland since the end of the lockdown (in reverse chronological order):

1 September 2020: Federal Council permits large events

The number of new infections continues to rise. On 1 September there were 370 new cases recorded. Despite of that, the Federal Council has decided to authorise large events of over 1,000 people from October, thus moving earlier than neighbouring countries to relax restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus. However, the Federal Council is imposing strict measures and cantonal approval procedures for such events. Major sports clubs and concert organisers welcome the news, whereas epidemiologists are concerned. 

27 August 2020: Economic slump

The Swiss economy shrank by 8.2 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs published the figures on 27 August and talked of the worst recession in 45 years.

26 August 2020: Zurich expands compulsory mask wearing

Zurich, Switzerland’s most populous canton, has made the wearing of masks compulsory in all shops, shopping centres and markets. In doing so, it follows the cantons of Basel-Stadt, Geneva, Jura, Neuchâtel and Vaud, which have also extended the compulsory wearing of masks. Other cantons have tightened the rules for bars, night clubs and restaurants, and are also set to extend compulsory mask wearing. The disparities among the different cantons remain a controversial subject.

20 August 2020: Quarantine for Albania, Belgium, India

Albania, Belgium, India, Monaco, Majorca, Menorca: the Federal Council has added additional countries and travel destinations to its quarantine list, which now includes 52 countries. Anyone returning to Switzerland from those countries must spend ten days in quarantine. The country list is updated on an ongoing basis. You can check the list here: www.ogy.de/mandatory-quarantine

18 August 2020: Tighter controls on persons travelling to Switzerland

Switzerland has tightened controls to ensure that people returning from holiday comply with quarantine requirements. Zurich airport police have started to pass on the names and addresses of people returning to the country to the cantonal authorities in order to apply more stringent supervision of quarantine controls and improve contact tracing.

16 August 2020: Zurich researchers disprove coronavirus theory 

Coronavirus carriers become contagious much earlier than previously assumed, as proven by researchers at ETH Zurich. The new discovery affects contact tracing. It was previously assumed all over the world that carriers become contagious 48 hours before displaying symptoms. However, the virus actually becomes contagious five days before the carrier falls ill. This poses a major challenge for contact tracing and may well result in many more people going into quarantine.

8 August 2020: Back from holiday and into quarantine

Due to holiday returnees infected with COVID-19, the Federal Council expands the list of destinations with a high risk of infection. There are now 46 countries on the list, including new entries Spain, Luxembourg and Singapore. Arrivals from these countries must self-quarantine for ten days. Anyone not adhering to quarantine may risk a fine of up to 10,000 Swiss francs. The list of countries (www.ogy.de/mandatory-quarantine) is continually updated.

7 August 2020: High number of unreported infections, say experts

According to Martin Ackermann, head of the government’s Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force, 250,000 to 400,000 people have probably been infected with COVID-19 in Switzerland to date – much more than the 40,000 laboratory-confirmed cases. Epidemiologists believe that 80 to 90 per cent of infections are going undetected. It is still unclear whether people who were infected are now immune, says Ackermann.

6 August 2020: Norway warns against travel to Switzerland

Norway puts Switzerland on its red list along with France. When a country is “red”, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against non-essential travel to that country. Arrivals from Switzerland must self-quarantine for ten days.

5 August 2020: Pregnant women added to the list of at-risk individuals

Switzerland decides to classify pregnant women as individuals who are particularly at risk from COVID-19. According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), pregnant women who contract COVID-19 may be at an increased risk of becoming seriously ill relative to non-pregnant women of the same age. Unborn children also have a higher risk of complications, says the FOPH.

1 August 2020: Geneva on the red list

Belgium forbids its citizens from going on holiday to the canton of Geneva, adding it to its COVID-19 risk list due to the high number of infections there. Belgium temporarily places Valais and Vaud on its red list as well..

6 July 2020: Mandatory face coverings on public transport

Face coverings are now mandatory on all forms of public transport in Switzerland. The Federal Council imposes this measure despite having previously delegated responsibility for combating the pandemic to the cantons. According to the President of the Swiss Confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga, this is because the government wants to avoid having different rules apply in different cantons. The measure is also notable given that the Federal Council decided against introducing mandatory face coverings during the first wave of the pandemic.

2 July 2020: Further travel restrictions

Due to increased numbers of infected people returning to Switzerland, arrivals from high-risk regions must now go directly into quarantine. Anyone not keeping to quarantine may risk a fine of up to 10,000 francs. The Federal Council approves a list of 29 high-risk countries and areas: Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Cape Verde, Qatar, Colombia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Moldova, North Macedonia, Oman, Panama, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Serbia, South Africa, Turks and Caicos Islands, USA, Belarus. The list of countries is continually updated. www.ogy.de/mandatory-quarantine

30 June 2020: Daily number of cases back into three-digit territory

For the first time since the end of the lockdown, the FOPH announces more than 100 daily new cases of COVID-19. This is more or less on a par with the daily figures in March just before the lockdown.

25 June 2020: Launch of Swiss contact-tracing app

The SwissCovid coronavirus contact-tracing app is available for smartphones. This free app, which can be used throughout Switzerland, warns users who have come into close contact with an infected person. SwissCovid is intended to help break chains of infection. However, use of the app is voluntary. Further information: www.covidtracker.ch

21 June: Big parties, serious consequences

After the relaxation of restrictions, many people are in the mood to celebrate. Some let down their guard. Partygoers promptly become the first superspreaders. These include people who have returned from holiday – particularly arrivals from Serbia.

6 June 2020: General easing of the lockdown

For many, 6 June marks a tentative return to everyday life in Switzerland. All remaining educational establishments are allowed to open, as are swimming pools, zoos, botanic gardens, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, bars, and mountain railways. Events for up to 300 people are now permitted.

30 May 2020: Groups of up to 30 people

The Federal Council ends the ban on gatherings of more than five people. Gatherings of up to 30 are now allowed. The police have their work cut out enforcing the new limit, because the warm early-summer weather has encouraged lots of much bigger groups to mingle. Major political demonstrations also begin to take place in many towns and cities. These include thousands-strong anti-racism protests in Basel and Zurich..

11 May 2020: Schools reopen

An important step out of the lockdown sees primary and lower-secondary schools reopen across the country. Public transport services pick up again, while restaurants can now welcome groups of up to four people. Shops are also allowed to reopen. Requirements for entering the country begin to be gradually relaxed.

27 April 2020: First easing of the lockdown

Now possible again, subject to compliance with the rules on hygiene and social distancing: visits to hairdressing salons; outpatient treatment at hospitals and medical practices; more people present at funerals than just close family. Garden centres, florists, and DIY stores can also reopen. The same applies to cosmetic studios and massage practices.

Timeline compiled by: MUL

The events from January to March 2020

Swissinfo editor Renat Kuenzi wrote a timeline covering the outbreak of the pandemic, which you can read in edition 3/2020 of “Swiss Review”. Swissinfo (www.swissinfo.ch) is also providing the “Fifth Switzerland” with continually updated in-depth multilingual coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic: ogy.de/corona-swissinfo

Combating COVID-19 – what you need to know

Keeping your distance; washing your hands; wearing a mask; testing and tracing – the Federal Office of Public Health continually updates its guidance on preventing COVID-19 in Switzerland. Further information: ogy.de/corona-bag

Stranded abroad? The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is helping to repatriate Swiss who are stranded in other countries. Further information: ogy.de/corona-eda

Comments (1)
  • Ernst Ruetimann, Trang, Thailand
    Ernst Ruetimann, Trang, Thailand at 18.10.2020
    Wie man es macht , ist es verkehrt! Hier in Thailand, wo auch der erste Infizierte ausserhalb Chinas gemeldet werden musste und in den Monaten vor dem absoluten Lockdown 100'000 chinesische Gäste - auch aus Wuhan - das Königreich Thailand besuchten, gibt es bis heute 59 Tote und 3679 Corvid-19-Fälle. Im März wurden die Grenzen geschlossen, die allgemeine Maskenpflicht eingeführt, Restaurants und Bars zugemacht, Alkoholverbot ausgesprochen, Ausgangsverbote erlassen. Aber zu was für einen Preis! Millionen sind nun arbeitslos, viele Hotels, Restaurants und andere Geschäfte, welche vom Tourismus lebten, haben für immer dichtgemacht. Thai Airways, vorher schon angeschlagen, ist nun am Rande des Konkurses.
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