The measures being used to mitigate the social and economic impact of COVID-19

Perspectives

The measures being used to mitigate the social and economic impact of COVID-19

A focus on Switzerland 

Facing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, which go far beyond the crucial element of public health, the Swiss government has prepared and implemented immediate measures in order to mitigate the social and economic impact of the outbreak. We put the measures adopted in the economic, social and employment areas under the magnifying glass, highlighting the most important fields of action across Switzerland.

Switzerland Legal COVID-19 measures

Federal measures

On 13 March 2020, the Swiss Government has declared the extraordinary situation under the terms of the Swiss Epidemic Act and has issued an ordinance on the measures to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

The main measures were as follows:

  • Ban on gatherings of more than 5 people in public areas
  • Closures of school, universities and other education and training facilities
  • Closures of publicly accessible establishments/business with certain exceptions.
  • Ban on public and private events

Exempt were in particular food stores, healthcare facilities, pharmacies, public services, sales points for telecommunication, hotels, social work establishments, funerals within the close family.

  • Travel restrictions for cross-border travellers

In addition, the Swiss Government had requested the population to stay at home and keep a minimum distance of 2 m to other people when outside one’s home. There was no general obligation to wear masks.

Since 26 April 2020, these measures have been eased step by step. As of 19 June 2020, two new ordinances have been issued (COVID-19 Ordinance 3 and  COVID-19-Ordinance Particular Situation). To the extent that these ordinances do not foresee different rules, it is in the Cantons' responsibility to implement the necessary measures to contain a further spreading.

Current Federal measures (Status 15 April 2021):

On 14 April 2021, the Federal Government has decided to loosen some of the current restriction with effect as of 19 April 2021. All other restrictions remain applicable until further notice.

As of 19 April 2021, the following applies:

  • All stores, museums, libraries and outdoor areas of zoos, botanical gardens as well as outdoor sports facilities can reopen. The general protection measures apply.
  • Outdoor gatherings of family and friends involving up to 10 people are permitted.
  • For children and young adults under the age of 20, sports or cultural activities (incl. youth clubs and singing) as well as sports competitions and concerts (the latter two without audience or spectators) are again permitted.

The following measures remain applicable:

  • Requirement to work from home: The public should – to the extent possible – work remotely. Employers are required to enable all staff to work from home where it is feasible and practicable for them to do so based on the type of activity. Employers will not be required to assume expenses incurred by employees for electricity or rent etc., as this is a temporary measure.
  • Further measures at the workplace: Where working from home is not possible or only partially so, further measures apply for the workplace. Masks must be worn indoors to protect employees where there is more than one person in a room. Maintaining a large distance between workspaces in the same room is no longer sufficient. 
  • The minimal distance is 1.5 m  while the general protection and hygiene measures still need to be followed.
  • Face mask must be worn as follows: 

i. on public transport, including waiting areas, train stations

ii. airplanes, which depart or arrive in Switzerland

iii. in all publicly accessible indoor spaces, e.g. stores, banks, museums, restaurants, hotels, sport facilities, churches, public administration

iv. outside of establishments or facilities, incl. farmer and Christmas markets, restaurant terraces

v. in busy pedestrian zones

vi. while queuing for and travelling on ski lifts and other forms of transport;

vii. in any other public space, if the minimal distance cannot be maintained.

Exceptions apply for children under the age of 12, person, who are not able to wear masks for medical reasons. For a dispensation from the requirement to wear a mask, a medical certificate issued by a doctor or psychotherapist is required to affirm dispensation on medical grounds. Old people's and nursing homes can exempt vaccinated residents or residents that have recovered from COVID-19 from the requirement to wear a mask.

  • Discos and nightclubs are closed.
  • Restaurants and bars: Restaurants and bars are closed inside. Outside seating areas can be open if the following restrictions are followed:
    i. customers must be seated and masks may only be removed to consume food and drink;
    ii. a max. of four people is allowed per table and each person’s contact details must be recorded;
    iii. tables must be 1.5 metres apart or have a screen placed between them.
  • Shops: only a reduced number of customers in shops is allowed: the max. number depends on the floor space available.
  • Public events and gatherings without spectators, such as sporting or cultural activities, are allowed involving up to 15 people. Exceptions apply to religious events (with a maximum of 50 attendees), funerals involving family and a group of friends, parliamentary and municipal assemblies, political demonstrations and collection of signatures for referendums and initiatives as well as competitive events and events with no audience. The necessary precautionary measures still need to be taken and masks be worn. Other public gatherings with more than 15 people are forbidden.
  • Events with spectators: are allowed, involving a maximum of 100 people at outdoor venues – such as at football matches or open-air concerts – and 50 people indoors – such as at cinemas, theatres and concerts. Attendance is limited to a third of the venue’s max. capacity. A seating requirement applies, masks must be worn at all times and distance of 1.5 metres must be maintained or a seat left free. Food and drink is not allowed and there should be no intervals.
  • For private events and gatherings: For private events and gatherings: the number of persons allowed to attend is limited to 10 (children included) indoors and to 15 outdoors.

  • Rules for ski resorts: The cantons remain responsible. Strict requirements must be met for ski areas to operate and receive an operating permit. They can only remain open if the epidemiological situation allows it and there are sufficient capacities in hospitals as well as for contact tracing and testing. Strict precautionary measures must be in place and their implementation must be guaranteed. Rules include a 2/3 capacity in gondolas and cable cars, and while queuing masks must be worn and minimal distance must be kept.

  • Sports: Sports facilities are open. Sports in groups as well as matches and competitions of up to 15 people are permitted. Outdoors a mask must be worn or the required distance of 1.5 metres respected. Indoors it is necessary to wear a mask and respect distancing rules. Exceptions are made for activities where it is not possible to wear a mask, e.g. endurance training in fitness centres or singing in a choir, then stricter distancing rules apply. Sports involving physical contact are not permitted indoors, and are only permitted outdoors if masks are worn.

  • All publicly accessible facilities and businesses, such as; museums, libraries and zoos, botanical gardens as well as sports facilities, can reopen. The general protection measures apply. Indoor areas of spa facilities and swimming pools will remain closed.

  • The exception rule for cantons with favourable epidemiological situations was revoked on 6 January 2021. All restaurants as well as cultural, leisure and sports facilities have to remain closed even in cantons previously falling under the exception.

  • Education institutions:

i. With exception of upper secondary schools and obligatory schools,  education institutions have in general  to switch to distance learning from Monday, 2 November 2020.  Only teaching activities, which are a necessary part of the education and for which a local presence is required, can be hold physically.

ii. On upper secondary schools (e.g.  gymnasium, vocational education schools) it is now also mandatory to wear face masks.

iii. Higher education institutions: In post-compulsory schooling, face-to-face teaching is permitted, if no more than 50 people are present, the room is not filled beyond a third of its capacity, face masks are worn and social distancing rules are followed.

  • Rapid antigen tests may be used to determine a COVID-19 infection, in addition to the PCR tests already used, to allow  a faster and more widespread testing. On 12 March 2021, the Federal Council has confirmed that the Confederation will assume the costs of all rapid tests, including those of all asymptomatic cases.
  • Quarantine: On 27 January 2021, the Federal Council introduced a test-and-release strategy for quarantine. Until now, anyone who has come into contact with an infected person has had to go into quarantine for ten days. Under the new rules, a person may leave quarantine after seven days if, after this time, they have a negative result from an antigen rapid or PCR test, and are authorised to do so by the cantonal authorities. The persons must pay for the test themselves and must wear a mask and continue to socially distance until the full ten days' quarantine is over, unless they remain at home (or in the place they are quarantining - holiday apartment, hotel etc.). If their test result is positive, they must isolate immediately. The same rules apply for the mandatory self quarantine for 10 days upon return from risk countries/areas (for further information see section “next steps"). As of 19 April 2021, employees at companies that have a testing plan and that offer tests to staff working on site at least once a week are not required to quarantine if they have been in contact at work with someone who has tested positive.
  • Entry restriction for certain foreign nationals (for further information see section “next steps"). 
  • A tracing app is publicly available for voluntary download.
  • COVID-19 Vaccination: As of 12 January 2021, two vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech) were approved. Vaccinating started Swiss-wide on 4 January 2021. In a first step, particularly vulnerable persons and their close contacts or caretakers, healthcare professionals and people in communal facilities will be vaccinated.
Cantonal measures

Where cantonal measures are stricter than national ones, they must be observed.

Canton of Geneva

No additional special measures or relaxations apply.

Canton of Zurich

  • Performances in public spaces are no longer permitted. This applies in particular to fireworks and comparable performances and installations, namely on the occasion of the holidays and the turn of the year.
  • A general ban on prostitution applies.
  • Takeaways, delivery services must close at 10 p.m.
  • Ski resorts in the canton of Zurich may open since 9 Jabuary 2021, but special protection concepts apply.
  • Elementary school: classes started regularly on 4 January 2021, but voluntary offers of the elementary school such as free subjects and courses or offers carried out by third parties in the schools (e.g. courses in local language and culture) will not take place until the end of February.
  • Additionally, a mask requirement applies on school grounds and in the classroom for all adults, including pupils in secondary school.

COVID-19 loans for SMEs
  • The Swiss Government has introduced government-guaranteed loans from Swiss banks as an interim measure for Swiss small and medium sized companies (“SMEs”) to help them alleviate their liquidity problems due to COVID-19. It expects to provide SMEs with a total of CHF 40bn in financing.
  • SMEs can apply for loans up to 10% of their annual turnover, up to a maximum of CHF 2 million:

i. Demands of up to CHF 500’000.
They will be guaranteed by the Swiss Government and will carry no interest rate.

ii. Demands in excess of CHF 500’000.
They will be guaranteed at 85% by the Swiss Government whilst the primary bank provider will bear the risk for the remaining 15%. The annual interest rate is currently 0.5%. Therefore, standard credit checks have to be imposed on the borrowing entity and the approval process may be slower.

  • To be eligible for COVID-19 loans, SMEs need to meet the following criteria:

i. Established/incorporated prior to 1 March 2020;

ii. No ongoing debt collection or liquidation proceedings;

iii. Significant negative impact on the turnover due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

iv. Not benefiting from federal financial support measures introduced in the areas of culture or sport;

v. The annual turnover must be lower than CHF 500 million.

  • Restrictions apply for the duration of the guarantee, e.g. no payments of dividends and no transfer of funds to parent-companies abroad.
  • The guarantees by the Swiss Government last for 5 business years with a possibility for extension for up to 2 years.
  • Guaranteed loans have to be repaid within 5 business years at the latest.
  • The banks may provide the respective companies/individuals additional loans in connection with the respective government backed loans at their own risks.
  • Applications can no longer be filed. The respective deadline expired on 31 July 2020.
  • As repayments of the loans will take many years, the COVID-19 Joint and Several Guarantee Ordinance will be converted into a federal law, which is foresee to enter into force as of 1 January 2021. Until then, the Ordinance will remain in force.
COVID-19 loans for start-ups with good prospects
  • The Swiss Government has introduced COVID-19 loans for start-ups with good prospects.
  • Start-ups may be eligible if they:

i. suffer from significant financial and liquidity problems due to COVID-19

ii. are domiciled in a participating canton and were founded before 1 March 2020

iii. are constituted as companies limited by shares (AG) or as company with limited liability (GmbH).

iv. are not operating in the agricultural sector

v. are not in a bankruptcy or composition proceeding or in liquidation.

  • Start-ups can apply for loans of up to a 1/3 of their 2019 running costs (maximum CHF 1 million per company).
  • The loans will be guaranteed at 65% by the Swiss Government and at 35% by participating cantons (or third-party). As of 15 June 2020, 21 cantons are participating. 

Applications can no longer be filed, the respective deadline for applications expired on 31 August 2020.

Financial help for the aviation sector
  • The Swiss Government has decided on 29 April 2020 to support  Swiss and Edelweiss to bridge liquidity shortfalls. It will guarantee 85% of the funds drawn (up to a maximum of CHF 1,275bn). The loan is secured by Swiss and Edelweiss shares, but the Swiss Government does not envisage a holding in either company.
  • Aviation-related businesses at national airports and national airports may also benefit  from necessary support provided that the stringent conditions can be met.
  • State funds are subject to the following conditions:

i. Sufficient collateral must be available. Companies and their owners have to implement all reasonable measures to mitigated liquidity shortfalls before being eligible to  state funds are of secondary nature.

ii. Guaranteed funds must be solely used for the Swiss infrastructure, i.e. no funds must be transferred to parent companies abroad.

iii. Funds generated in the future must be primarily used to repay the received loan, i.e. no dividend or intra-group repayments.

  • The Swiss Government has asked Parliament for guarantee credits of CHF 1,875bn in total. 
  • On 1 July 2020, the Swiss Government has also decided to secure a credit granted to SR Technics by a bank consortium with  a default guarantee of 60% (CHF 72 million). The same restrictions as for support of Swiss and Edelweiss apply. Further credits may be granted to Skyguide, CHF 150 million in 2020 and further CHF 250 million in 2021.
Financial help for other sectors
  • Businesses in the culture, sports and tourism sector may access loans, subventions and compensation for loss of income. The financial support for the culture sector has been increased as of 18 December 2020. Transformation projects of cultural enterprises are supported with financial aid in the amount of now up to 80%. As of 1 April 2021, the support for the cultural sector has been increased with workers and freelance workers in the cultural sector receiving retroactive compensation for losses from 1 November 2020 and by relaxing the conditions for granting emergency assistance to cover immediate living costs. As of 1 April 2021, also less strict and more differentiated rules apply for clubs from professional and semi-professional team sports, which considering the ban on spectators in the stadiums and the loss of income from ticket sales and catering, receive, under certain conditions, A-fonds-perdu contributions from the federal government.
  • Public transport and rail freight companies should also benefit from financial support. The Federal Council aims to provide CHF 800 million for various measures, which shall ensure that these companies remain solvent and can continue providing their full services. Furthermore, the Federal Railway Company will be supported with additional credits of CHF 550 million to bridge liquidity shortfalls.
Deferral of social security contributions 
  • Since 19 March 2020, Swiss companies and self-employed persons whose turnover has declined due to COVID-19 are able to defer the payment of social insurance contributions (AHV, IV, EO, IV, UI) for 6 months and without interest.
  • They will also be able to adjust the usual amount of the advance payments made in respect of these insurances in the event of a significant fall in the wage bill.
  • Until the end of June 2020, the social security authorities stopped sending reminders for unpaid contributions and waived interests on late payments.
Contributions to pension schemes
  • Until 31 December 2021, employers may use the employer contribution reserves to pay employee contributions to pensions schemes for a period of 6 months to allow them to deal with liquidity issues.
  • This measure has no effect on employees. Their employee contribution part are deducted from the salary as in normal circumstances and all contributions are credited to employees by the pension fund.
Tax payments
  • The Swiss Federal Tax administration has waived the late payment interest for direct and other taxes due between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.
  • A majority of cantonal tax administrations have extended payment deadlines or have waived late payment interests for cantonal and communal taxes.
  • Tax laws at federal level and cantonal level, allow taxpayers in case of hardship to request a deferral of payments due without any late interest on open tax payments (e.g. following a final assessment).
Deferral of bankruptcy and temporary deferral in probate proceedings 
  • The Swiss Government has introduced two temporary measures aimed at protecting companies from the threat of bankruptcy as consequence due to liquidity shortfalls:

i. a temporary deferral in probate proceedings, the so-called COVID 19 deferral, for small and medium-sized enterprises that have run into financial difficulties solely as a result of COVID-19.

ii. a temporary exemption from reporting over-indebtedness for any company, which was financially healthy at the end of 2019 and where there is a chance that over-indebtedness can be remedied after the current crisis.

  • These measures were in place until 19 October 2020. The Federal Council has decided not to extend the Covid-19 Ordinance on Insolvency Law thereafter and has announced the return to the ordinary Insolvency Laws after 19 October 2020.
  • In consideration of the Corona-Pandemic, the Federal Council has put in force the planned extension of the debt-restructuring moratorium from 4 to 8 months, (decided as part of the revision of Swiss corporate law) already from 20 October 2020, to ease the financial recovery process for companies.

COVID-19 Hardship Assistance

  • On 25 November 2020, the Federal Council adopted the final version of the ordinance governing the details of the hardship support programme of the Confederation and cantons that entered into force on 1 December 2020.
  • The ordinance regulates how federal funds are distributed among the cantons and the conditions under which companies are entitled to hardship assistance.
  • Under the ordinance, cantons are able to simultaneously grant loans and non-repayable contributions to a company.
  • As an accompanying measure to the hardship assistance, simplifications for composition proceedings are planned.
  • The prerequisites for assistance of companies for hardship assistance have been adapted in the final version of the  ordinance as follows:

i. Companies must have been established before 1 October 2020 to be able to apply for hardship assistance.

ii. Decline in turnover: a case of hardship exists if the company’s annual turnover is less than 60% of the multi-year average. The ordinance leaves the definition of turnover to the cantons (including the question whether compensation for short-time working and COVID-19 loss of earnings compensation must be added to the 2020 turnover).

iii. In addition to the overall asset and capital situation of a company, the share of uncovered fixed costs is taken into account: Only companies that confirm to the canton that the decline in sales at the end of the year results in a share of uncovered fixed costs that jeopardizes their ability to survive are eligible.

iv. Minimum turnover: A company must have generated turnover of at least CHF 50,000 before the coronavirus pandemic in order to apply for hardship contributions.

v. State participations: companies that are partly owned by communes or cantons should be able to apply for hardship assistance only if the state participation is less than 10%. The ordinance provides for an exception, for companies which are more than 10% owned by smaller communes with up to 12,000 inhabitants (e.g. ski lifts owned by mountain communes) that are eligible for hardship assistance.

vi. Ban on dividends/bonuses: There is a ban on dividends or bonuses in the case of non-repayable contributions that applies to the business year in which the hardship measure is paid out as well as to the three following years, which however, ceases to apply upon repayment of the contribution received. A company is already excluded from hardship assistance when it passes a resolution on a dividend distribution and not only when a dividend is distributed.

vii. If the activities of a company in different sectors can be clearly demarcated, several types of subsidies are now permissible, e.g. a hardship subsidy and a simultaneous cultural subsidy.

  • As of 1 April 2021 the Federal Council relaxed the conditions that a company must fulfil in order to receive hardship assistance. Among other things:

    i. businesses that have been closed by the authorities for a total of at least 40 calendar days since 1 November 2020, are now considered a hardship case without proof of a drop in sales.

    ii. In addition, sales declines that occurred in 2021 can now be claimed.

    iii. The upper limits for A-fonds-perdu contributions are increased to 20 percent of sales or 1 million for small and medium-sized enterprises and to 5 million for large ones. These maximum limits can be raised to 30 percent of the annual turnover, but no more than 10 million, for enterprises with more than 5 million in annual turnover, if the enterprise has a decline in turnover of more than 70 percent or if the owners make a contribution of their own (40 percent of the additional assistance).

  • As of 1 April 2021, larger companies with a turnover of over 5 million that make a profit in 2021 are to repay the profit to the state up to the amount received in hardship assistance.

Short-time work compensation for COVID-19
  • Employers who suffer loss of work amounting to at least 10% of the hours usually worked can apply for short-time work compensation if

i. the work of loss is due to economic reasons or official measures with an adequate causal link to COVID-19; and

ii. is likely to be of temporary nature and it can be expected that short-time work will maintain jobs.

  • Short-time work requires the consent of each employee.
  • The compensation paid by the unemployment fund is at 80% of the loss of earnings attributable to the loss of work hours.
  • The maximal insured annual salary is CHF 148’200.
  • Social security contributions on employer’s side are still due on the full salary, but will be reimbursed at 6,225% of the compensation. Social security contributions on the employee’s side are also due on the full salary, unless there is a different agreement  between employer and employee.
  • Short-time work compensation is possible for up to 12 months  (as of 1 September 2020: 18 months)  within a 2 years' period.
  • Covered are all employees in a unterminated employment, who have not yet reached the retirement age, incl. employees with a fixed-term contract (ceased on 31 August 2020), apprentices (ceased on 31 May 2020) and temporary workers  (ceased 31 August 2020) and on-call workers, who have been employed for more than six months.
  • As of 1 June 2020, persons in an employer-like position (e.g. CEO of a limited company) and their spouses can no longer benefit from short-time work compensation.
  • The Swiss Government has also introduced a simplified procedure with a simplified notification and which applies until 30 June 2021. It entails that a notification is filed to the competent cantonal authority followed by monthly applications for reimbursements with the chosen unemployment fund
  • Currently, the following applies (Status 20 March 2021):

i. employees (incl. on-call employees), who have un unlimited, not-terminated employment contract (in case of on-call employees: also with a fixed-term contract that can be terminated by notice) and have not yet reached the retirement age are entitled to short-term work. In addition, persons with a fixed-term contract or apprentices (only under the condition that the continuation of the apprenticeship is guaranteed and in companies that had to close by official orders) are again eligible for short-time work compensation for the period from 1 January 2021 until 30 June 2021.

ii. The grace period established on 1 September 2020 of 1 day is retroactively revoked until 30 June 2021.

iii. The notification period is reduced from 10 to 0 days, i.e. the notification has to be received no later than the day on which the short-time work begins. Employers with a valid authorisation with start date 1 September 2021 or later can apply until 30 April 2021 for a retroactive repeal of the notification period with the competent compensation fund. 

iv. The validity of the notification is extended to 6 months. As of 1 July 2021, short-time work with a duration of more than 3 months can only be granted until 31 December 2021 at the latest. Employers with an existing authorisation for short-time work with a start date of 1 September 2020 or late can apply for a retroactive extension up to 6 months (the corresponding application must be submitted to the competent cantonal authority as well as the reports to the unemployment fund until 30 April 2021).

v. The limitation that in case of loss of working hours of more than 85%, the employees are only entitled to up to 4 months compensation did not apply between 1 March 2020 and 31 March 2021.

vi. Short-time work compensation can be requested for up to 18 months within a 2 year's period.

vii. Persons with low income (up to CHF 4'340) receive a higher entitlement to short-time work compensation retroactively as of 1 December 2020 up until 30 June 2021.

viii. Employers affected by Covid-19 measures adopted as of 18 December 2020 can without an existing authorisation can retroactively submit a notification for the period as of the entry into force of the corresponding measures. Employers with an existing authorisation, who are affected by these measures, can apply for an authorisation for short-time work retroactively as of the entry into force of the corresponding measure - regardless of the submission date of the pre-notification. The corresponding notification resp. application must be submitted to the competent cantonal authority by 30 April 2021 and the corresponding reports with the total hours lost must also be submitted to the unemployment fund by 30 April 2021.

Special protections for employees at high risk (“particularly vulnerable employees”)

According to the legal definition, a particularly vulnerable person is in general any person, who is beyond the age of 65 or who has a pre-existing medical condition, i.e. high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer or other diseases or therapies, which weaken the immune system.

As of 18 January 2021, the following applies:

  • Employees at high risk are entitled to home office. Where they cannot perform their role from home, the employer has to provide them with equivalent work performable from home. In either case, the employer has to take all appropriate measures to ensure remote work.
  • If operational reasons require the full or partly presence of employees at high risk at the employer’s premises, the employer has to meet the following requirements:

–    All contact to other persons must be omitted, either by a separate office in a single room or separated workplace.

–    Where close contact to other persons cannot be avoided, all appropriate protection measures need to be put in place (in particular personal protection gear as other technical/organisational measures).

  • Where neither remote work from home (regular or equivalent role) nor regular role with the above listed safety precautions are possible, the employer has to provide an equivalent role at its premises in which he can ensure the above safeguards. Before taking the prescribed measures, the employer must consult with the employees in question.
  • In case none of these options are feasible or where the concerned employee does not agree with the measures, the employer is required to put the employee on paid leave.
Protection concepts
  • Based on law and the duty of care, employers must  do anything go guarantee the safety of their employees. Besides the obligation of employees to wear masks except if minimum distance can be kept or if masks cannot be worn for safety reasons or due to the type of work, further measures need to be taken. Such measures may include split-operations, physical barriers or the duty to wear face masks outside the premises.
Compensation for loss of income of employees
  • The loss of earning insurance covers the loss of income for employees,

i. who cannot come to work because they have to take care of their children (beyond the age of 12); or

ii. who have been put in medical quarantine.

  • The compensation is 80% of the lost salary up to a maximum daily allowance of CHF 196.
  • The compensation will be paid for a maximum of  7 days in case of a quarantine. In case of childcare, the entitlement cedes either when alternative childcare is guaranteed again or with the end of the measures due to COVID-19.
Compensation for loss of income of self-employed persons and persons in an employer-like position
  • Self-employed persons/persons in an employer-like position, who suffer a loss of income due to official measures (i.e. business closures or ban of events) or if they are heavily affected by such measures. The latter is the case if their revenues in the respective month are reduced by at least 30% compared to the average monthly revenues in the years 2015-2019. These persons need to have an AHV-insured annual income of at least CHF 10'000.
  • Furthermore, they are entitled to compensation as employees if they are put under medical quarantine or in case of taking care of their own children. For information on compensation see above.
  • The compensation is 80% of the lost income up to a maximum daily allowance of CHF 196. Compensation is paid as long as the above requirements are met, but until 30 June 2021 at the most.

Compensation for loss of income for persons in the cultural sector

  • As of 18 December 2020 the instrument of loss compensation for cultural workers is reintroduced.

Additional criminal measures

Art. 83 of the Swiss Epidemic Act (EpA) and COVID-19 Ordinance Particular Situation foresee criminal measures in addition to the Swiss Criminal Code.

According to Art. 83 EpA, a fine of up to CHF 10'000  may be opposed among others on anyone who:

  • evades an ordered quarantine or isolation or medical supervision
  • withdraws from an ordered medical examination
  • opposes measures against the population
  • violates the regulation on entry or exit,
  • in case of negligence, the maximum fine is CHF 5'000.

Art. 13 of COVID-19 Ordinance Particular Situation also foresees fines for

i. the operator/organiser of publicly accessible establishments and business  as well as of private or public events, who does intentionally or negligently not comply with the rules on protection concepts or the special measures (e.g. business closures, business hours).

ii. the operator or organiser, who deliberately or negligently processes the collected contact data for other purposes or who stores for more than 14 days.

iii. the operator of a ski resort without the necessary permit or in deviation of the approved protection concept.

iv. the person, who deliberately organises, holds or takes part in a prohibited event.

v. the person, who operates a forbidden market or exhibition.

vi. the person, who does intentionally or negligently not comply with the face mask obligation, except for the applicable exemptions (e.g. children below the age of 12).

vii. the person, who intentionally violates the prohibition of gatherings of people in public spaces.

viii. the guest of a hotel restaurant or bar, who wilfully breaches the obligation to sit.

ix. the person, who wilfully or negligently fails to wear a face mask at a political or civic rally or a collection of signatures, except where an exception applies.

  • For the scenarios (ii.-x.), the penalties are fixed and fine ranges between CHF 50 and CHF 200, depending on the offence. In the scenario (i.), organisers of a private event may be fined whereas in the other cases organisers/operators prosecuted and judged by the law enforcement authorities in accordance with the normal procedure.

Entry Restrictions
  • Entry restrictions still exist for all third-country nationals traveling to Switzerland from a risk country (all non-Schengen member states) for stays beyond 90 days, in particular tourists, short-time visitors, business travellers.
  • Since 15 June 2020, the borders between Switzerland and Schengen Member states are open. As a consequence, the normal entry requirements apply for the following travellers:

i. citizens of a Schengen member state;

ii. persons benefitting from the free movement of persons

iii. third country nationals exempt from the duty to hold a visa, which are residing in a Schengen member state;

iv. third country national not exempt from the duty to hold a visa, who are in possession of a valid Schengen visa or valid residence permit of a Schengen member state.

  • The following countries outside the Schengen area are not considered a risk country 19 April 2021): Andorra, Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Monaco, New Zealand, Rwanda, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vatican / Holy See.
  • As of 20 December 2020, the Federal Council has withdrawn freedom of movement privileges from residents in the United Kingdom with immediate effect until 31 December 2020. Residents from the UK are therefore generally banned from entering Switzerland. As of 1 January 2021, the privilege ceases to apply due to Brexit.
Rules for incoming travellers

Until 7 February 2021

  • Persons, who have been staying in a risk country/area 10 days prior to their travels to Switzerland, must self-quarantine for 10 days and register within 2 days upon entry with the competent cantonal authorities.

As of 8 February 2021

  • All persons arriving from abroad by air, boat, bus or train must complete an online form on arrival for contact tracing. Passengers arriving by air must present a negative PCR test result (no older than 72 hours) before boarding the plane.
  • Persons, who have been staying in a risk country/area 10 days prior to their travels to Switzerland, have to additionally quarantine for ten days. They can leave quarantine after seven days if they again test negative (antigen rapid test or PCR test), but have to wear face masks at all times (except at home) until the 10 days have expired. If they test positive, they have to immediately self-isolate.

Exceptions

Exceptions may apply, e.g. for business travellers who are travelling for an important reason that cannot be postponed, individuals travelling for an important medical reason that cannot be postponed, transit passengers (less than 24h in a risk country or area), health service workers or persons, who transport business/goods professionally by road, railway, ship or plan.

Risk countries/areas

  • A risk country/area is defined as a country/area in which there is heightened risk for infection. As per 28 October 2020, the declaration as a risk country/area is assessed based on the number of new infections per 100 000 inhabitants over the past 14 days. If the infections  in a country are at least 60 higher than the ones in Switzerland, the country/area will be added to the list.
  • The list of risk countries/areas is updated every 14 days. It currently includes (status 19 April 2021):

Areas of neighbouring countries:

Austria:
Land Burgenland
Land Kärnten
Land Niederösterreich
Land Oberösterreich
Land Salzburg
Land Steiermark
Land Wien

France:
Région Bretagne
Région Centre-Val de Loire
Région Hauts-de-France
Région Île de France
Région Normandie
Région Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Région Occitanie
Région Pays de la Loire
Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

Germany:
Land Sachsen
Land Thüringen

Italy:
Regione Campania
Regione Emilia Romagna
Regione Friuli Venezia Giulia
Regione Lazio
Regione Liguria
Regione Marche
Regione Puglia
Regione Toscana
Regione Veneto

Countries and areas*

Andorra
Armenia
Bahrain
Belgium
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brazil
Bulgaria
Canada
Chile
Croatia
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Estonia
Greece
Hungary
Jordan
Kosovo
Kuwait
Latvia
Lebanon
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Maldives
Malta
Moldova
Monaco
Montenegro
Netherlands
North Macedonia
Palestine
Paraguay
Peru
Poland
Romania
San Marino
Serbia
Seychelles
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Africa
Sweden
Tanzania
Turkey
Ukraine
Uruguay

The newly added countries and areas are written in bold.

*for all countries on the list that do not share a border with Switzerland the territory includes all of its areas, islands and overseas territories – even if they are not listed separately.

  • Non-compliance will be sanctioned with fines up to CHF 10’000.
Immigration

All applications are again being processed (subject to the legal requirements:

  • for residence or cross-border permits of EU/EFTA nationals (local hires) and notification procedure  for local hires;
  • for work and residence permits for EU/EFTA nationals (assignees) as well as notifications procedures for cross-border services;
  • for the employment or assignment of non-EU/EFTA nationals;
  • for residence permits of EU/EFTA and third-country national who are not employed, e.g. pensioner;
  • for family reunions or preparations of wedding with a person with a Swiss residence permit;
  • for foreign school pupils/students for studies with a duration of more than 90 days.

Combating COVID-19 with resilience

Did you find this useful?