Restaurants, cultural venues and sports facilities will be able to reopen sooner than expected

Guy Parmelin, Simonetta Sommaruga and Alain Berset, in Bern. 29 April. | Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Most leisure, cultural and sports venues will be able to reopen from May 11 onwards, as part of an accelerated plan to relax COVID-19 confinement measures, presented today by The Federal Council. In two successive press conferences, the Council laid out plans to speed up the pace at which restaurants, museums, libraries, and sports facilities could resume operations. Entry restrictions into Switzerland also will be eased, while a CHF 1.9 billion aid package for the aviation industry is being proposed. As already announced, shops and primary/secondary schools will be able to reopen on May 11 too. Popular votes will resume in September.

Why this is good news. The evolution of the epidemic in Switzerland is allowing for an accelerate pace of reopening. However, rules on social distancing, hygiene and bans on mass gatherings of more than five people remain in place. Alain Berset, Federal Councillor for Health, refers to this new stage as "a partial return to normal life".

Today's decisions. The infographic shows all the activities that can be resumed from May 11th:

The President of the Confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga, made a point of specifying that:

"Each reopening is subject to a concept of protection. Each branch develops its own concepts. In the case of public transport, which is to return to a normal timetable from 11 May, the concept will be presented on 30 April."

Alain Berset, Federal Councillor for Health:

"We have to learn to live with this virus, and we can't remain confined until a vaccine is found. So we have to reopen, but we have to be extremely careful."

Zoos and botanical gardens are not expected to reopen until June 8. In addition, demonstrations by more than 1,000 people are forbidden until at least August 31.

Economic situation. Guy Parmelin, Federal Councillor for Economic Affairs, spoke of "dark clouds in the economic sky":

"A recession is ahead of us. At present, 37% of the country's employees are working part-time work, and the rate goes as high as 50% in Ticino and the Jura. But it also means that companies want to retain their employees. Unemployment has risen by 0.8 percent to 3.3 percent."

Economic support. In addition to the new easing measures, the Federal Council announced that it would ask the Federal Assembly for a CHF 1.9 billion aid package, in the form of guaranteed loans, for air transport. This concerns both Swiss and Edelweiss airlines. Both companies will need support through 31 December 2020. EasyJet Switzerland does not have the same needs and is therefore not part of the support program.

Borders. At the second media conference, Karin Keller-Sutter, Federal Councillor for Justice and Police, announced a gradual easing of entry restrictions into Swiss territory as of 11 May:

"Family reunification will once again be possible for Swiss families and for families where one of the family members is a citizen of the European Union or EFTA".

Other flexibility measures concern third-country nationals. These concern the issuing of visas and the processing of applications submitted before 19 March 2020.

Border controls will not be lifted and the only airports authorised to receive passengers from abroad are those in Geneva, Basel and Zurich. Further easing measures are planned for 8 June.

Sports. On the sports front, Viola Amherd, Federal Councillor heading the Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport DDPS. explained how measures will affect individual and organized sports:

"Sports activities can resume on 11 May, but certain rules must be observed."

All sports facilities can resume, although under the following conditions:

  • training with a maximum of 5 people

  • no physical contact

  • respect of the hygiene rules in force.

Mass sporting events are excluded at least until 8 June, although some competitions may take place behind closed doors. A decision on a way forward for such sporting events will be made on 27 May.

Super Sunday voting. Popular voting will resume in September. The first voting date, scheduled for Sunday September 27, will have five items up for decision, including:

  • Swiss People’s Party (UDC) initiative to impose quotas on migration from the European Union;

  • Cancellation of a measure giving fathers two weeks of paternity leave, adopted last year by the Federal Assembly.

  • Halt to plans to spend CHF 6 billion on fighter aircraft;

  • Reversal of amendments to the hunting law that make it easier to hunt protected species such as wolves, bears, and ibex;

  • Cancellation of reforms expanding tax deductions for childcare expenses.

Final words.

Simonetta Sommaruga:

"The crisis is not over, we'll have to live with the virus and the economic consequences for some time to come."

Alain Berset:

"It's very important to remain modest and flexible in the face of a situation where we don't control every parameter. Epidemiologically, the situation is improving. We think and have good reason to believe that this is quite strongly linked to the measures taken and well followed by the population."