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Alain Berset: "We can lift almost all the restrictions as of 22 June"

Alain Berset, head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs, at today's press conference

The Federal Council today announced that a fourth stage in the relaxation of Covid-19 related restrictions will begin on Monday 22 June. The extraordinary national measures in place for the past several months end today, 19 June,. President Simonetta Sommaruga and Home Affairs head Alain Berset told a press conference.

Why this is a relief. Further easing is possible because the number of daily new infections has been low for several weeks. Nevertheless, demonstrations by more than a thousand people remain prohibited until the end of August. Responsibility for managing the follow-up of the epidemic is being entrusted to the cantons.

The decisions of the day. The evolution of the epidemic continues to be very positive; the number of cases remains stable and low despite the successive easing of restrictions since 27 April. The aim is therefore to return to normal by 22 June.

Demonstrations and gatherings of up to 1000 people will be allowed from 22 June. The cantons will be able to reduce this limit depending on the state of the epidemic in their territory. The wearing of masks during political and civil demonstrations is compulsory. This provision comes into force on Saturday 20 June.

  • Demonstrations involving more than 1000 people should be permitted from September onwards if the epidemiological situation permits.

  • Patrons in restaurants will be allowed to stand at the bar in establishments.

  • The restrictions imposed on nightclubs, bars, discos and restaurants will be lifted. Partition walls must remain in places where the minimum safe distance between tables cannot be maintained.

  • Cinemas and concert halls will be required to leave an empty seat between two people.

  • All employees may return to their physical places of work. The decision to continue teleworking remains with the employer.

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Measures remaining in force. The distances to be respected will decrease from 2 to 1.5 meters. This difference may seem negligible, but Berset explained as follows:

"A distance of one metre between people was the norm before the coronavirus. It is not a protective distance. Going from 2 metres to 1.5 metres is a protective distance. We know that keeping these distances reduces the transmission of the virus."

Hygiene rules (including frequent hand washing) and the wearing of masks is still recommended. Public transport users are strongly advised to wear a mask.

These plans are simplified. The protection plans are simplified to make them easier to implement. For the Confederation, it is a question of making the population aware of its responsibilities. The same instructions apply to all sectors.

The cantons come first. The cantons are responsible for managing epidemic trends and control. If the number of cases in their respective territories increases, they must take measures. This means that they will be free to impose restrictions if they deem it necessary.

For example, the cantonal authorities could make the wearing of masks compulsory on public transport. Confirmed Berset: "Yes, they can. It is once again legal for them to take this kind of decision. We're going back to our federalist system."

For President Sommaruga, this is an important and illustrative point about how the country works:

"At the federal level, the number of new cases every day is too low to make the wearing of masks compulsory. However, the return to federalism, which is desired by the Federal Council, means that the cantons can make the wearing of masks compulsory on public transport. Close coordination between them about masks will be necessary in the coming weeks, because it is not useful or necessary in all regions of the country. Federalism implies different rules in different cantons. That's what we're going to see over the next few weeks."

A "Strategy for preparedness and management in the event of a resurgence of the Covid-19 epidemic in Switzerland" has been developed to prevent a resurgence of the epidemic. The idea is not to allow the virus to spread in a controlled manner through the population, nor to focus only on vulnerable people. The idea is to control, and if possible break, the chain of transmission of the virus locally, regionally and cantonally. Contact tracing plays an important role in this context. The contact tracing application SwissCovid is a tool of this strategy. A decision on its public launch will be taken on Wednesday 24 June.

The low incidence of the epidemic makes it possible to envisage such a decentralised approach. It also makes it possible to avoid further encroachments on fundamental rights.

Finally, as the extraordinary situation ends on 19 June, the government team created on 20 March to manage the crisis has been dissolved.

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