Parc des Bastions, Geneva park, Time Out Switzerland
©Michel Frossard

Switzerland’s social distancing rules explained and how to go out right now

Written by
Time Out editors

It’s never going to be simple easing a country out of lockdown status. But a series of announcements by the Swiss Government over the last few weeks have signalled that this is what’s beginning to happen.

The questions now on most people’s minds are along the lines of “What are we allowed to do?”, “Where can we go?” and “What can we do when we get there?”

All valid questions, but as you might have guessed, the answers are far from simple. Which is why we’ve outlined some of the key points below, to help you on your way.

Remember that information is still changing fast on a daily basis, so if you’re unsure about something, check the Federal Office of Public Health website for advice on the situation.

And above everything else, remember to keep staying safe in whatever you do and wherever you go over the coming weeks.

From May 11 a number of services will be allowed to reopen, including primary and secondary schools, shops, markets, museums, libraries and restaurants, “under strict compliance with precautionary measures.” These precautionary measures mean different things for different organisations, but in the case of restaurants, for example, the number of people in a group is limited to four, “or families with children”, and you need to be seated to eat or drink anything.

There’s also been some confusion over whether customers to restaurants and bars will need to provide venues with their names and phone numbers in order to enter. Initially, it seemed that venues would be required to demand this of customers in order to reopen, but in the past few days various news sources have reported that this won’t be enforced and that instead, customers will be able to choose to voluntarily leave their details, although there hasn’t yet been an official announcement from the government on the situation.

It’s worth noting that venues where you’d normally stand up to drink or eat won’t be allowed to reopen on May 11, i.e. “bars, discos and nightclubs” without the capacity for seating.

As for museums, reopening dates vary (for examples, Zentrum Paul Klee on May 12, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire on May 21), but venues are restricting the number of visitors and avoiding guided tours.

Venues that can’t meet the stringent safety measures can’t reopen yet.

There’ll also be more frequent public transport from May 11.

Social gatherings
At the moment, public gatherings of more than five people are still banned. Meetups of fewer than five people are allowed, but you still need to keep apart by two metres (which we can now all surely measure out with our eyes closed). And as tempting as it might seem to get together with a larger crew in that gloriously sunny park or to sit a bit closer than two metres, you’ll be fined if you do. So, don’t do it, basically. These rules are currently in place until June 8.

From May 11, “recreational sports activities not involving physical contact” will be allowed in groups of up to five people, including some use of sports facilities, providing that safety measures are followed. It seems common sense is key in figuring out what those “recreational sports activities” do and don’t include, but we’re guessing that judo is probably off the agenda for the moment. Some swimming pools will reopen, but only for professional athletes. Looks like you may have to keep up the running for a little longer.

The ban on large-scale events, for more than 1,000 people, remains in place, until at least August 31. Before summer, the government will decide whether or not to extend the ban beyond that date.

New wave
The next ‘wave’ of easing measures (as published on the FOPH website) will be on June 8 and is expected to include re-openings of more schools and higher education institutions, theatres, cinemas, botanical gardens, swimming pools (to the wider public) and mountain transport services, plus allowing gatherings of more than five people.

Keep on keeping your distance
Throughout all of this, the government is stressing the need to keep following social distancing and rigorous hygiene measures, while those aged over 65 are being urged to stay at home wherever possible, unless going to a doctor.

Once again, we recommend to keep checking the Swiss Government website for the most up-to-date advice on what’s allowed and what’s not, as even hard-and-fast rules are being reviewed and sometimes changed.

And although it sounds obvious to say, let’s just remember that even as lockdown measures are gradually eased up, COVID-19 is still a very real threat, so let’s all stay sensible and safe as we slowly edge out back into the real world and try and remember how to talk to (fewer than five) people that aren’t on a Zoom screen.

Dreaming of what you’ll be doing post-lockdown? Here’s our top five.

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