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Switzerland will allow mass events to take place starting October, but 'strict protective measures' will still apply.

Mass events will be allowed in Switzerland this fall, but physical distancing and basic hygiene will apply. Source: Adrian Sulc.

Opening up the country carefully. Swiss authorities will allow events with over 1,000 people to take place starting October, but ‘strict protective measures’ will still apply - including physical distancing and basic hygiene guidelines, said the Federal Office of Public Health on Wednesday. Although there was no explicit mention of masks, which are now obligatory in public transportation, more extensive recommendations based on advice from the World Health Organization and the nation’s Science Task Force will be issued at a later date. Said the Federal Office of Public Health:

“In addition to applying basic measures such as hygiene and social distancing rules [at mass events], further guidelines will also be issued, drawing on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Science Task Force.“

Why it’s important. The mass event ban has caused many important international meetings, normally hosted in Switzerland, to be delayed or moved online. The expiration of the ban may preempt a return to in-person meetings for political assemblies, such as the 73rd World Health Assembly, which is set to resume later this year after a shortened virtual session in May.

Events will be granted based on each canton’s context. Starting October 2020, each canton will grant permits for any large-scale event, based on the local epidemiological situation and its contact tracing capacities. Said the Federal Council:

“Strict protective measures will apply and the events will have to be authorised by the cantons, taking into account the local epidemiological situation and their contact tracing capacity.”

“We want to boost cooperation between the federal authorities and the cantons but remain flexible to adapt the rules depending on the situation," Simonetta Sommaruga, the Confederation’s president, said at a news conference last week.

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Simmonetta Sommaruga, president of the Swiss Confederation. Source: Federal Council.

Some context. All events with over 1000 people were banned by Swiss authorities in late February in a move to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Although infections peaked in mid-March and began to tail off soon thereafter, the mass event ban’s expiration date was extended from the end of August to October to give cantons time to prepare for large-scale events and bolster local contact tracing capacities.

Foreign diplomats will be exempt from quarantine requirements. In a surprising move, Swiss diplomats will be exempt from quarantine requirements upon their return from official business trips, said the Federal Council. Similarly, foreign diplomats may be exempt from the quarantine requirement if their presence in Switzerland is deemed ‘necessary for the proper operation of their embassies’.

The Swiss Covid-19 situation is ‘under control’. Despite Covid-19 cases exceeding 200 cases a day since last week - a sharp uptick compared to early June’s average of some twenty daily cases - Switzerland’s interior minister Alain Berset maintained that Switzerland’s Covid-19 situation is ‘under control’.

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Federal Office of Public Health Coronavirus: Large-scale events to be permitted from October under strict conditions and with a permit