• Switzerland has eased more of its coronavirus restrictions.
  • Bars, pubs and restaurants are reopening as long as customers are seated.
  • Groups of up to four people, or families, can now dine out together.
  • Shops, markets, museums and libraries may also reopen.

Switzerland is continuing to relax its lockdown measures, allowing people to go out and socialize more freely.

As of 11 May, the country’s second wave of reopenings means it’s possible to go out to dinner once again. Along with measures to ensure social distancing, including keeping tables two metres apart or separating them with a partition, a range of other restrictions will stay in place.

Customers must be seated to consume food and drink, and no more than four people can visit a restaurant, pub or bar together. The only exception is family groups, which can be larger than four.

Shops, markets, museums and libraries may also reopen as long as they comply with precautionary measures, while classroom teaching is allowed again in primary and lower secondary schools.

New coronavirus: gradual easing of measures
The updated lockdown measures for Switzerland
Image: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft

Contact tracing

When going out for drinks or dinner in Switzerland, one customer in each group will also be asked to leave their contact details with the bar or restaurant (the individual can decide if they want to volunteer this information).

That way, if another patron tests positive for coronavirus, authorities will be able to alert other customers.

Casimir Platzer, head of Gastro Suisse, the Swiss restaurant body, told Blick newspaper: "The people who are looking forward to visiting a restaurant are ready to hand over the data."

That data must then be destroyed after 14 days.

The rate of COVID-19 infection in Switzerland has been falling since March. The country has recorded 30,305 confirmed cases and 1,833 deaths. Its first case was recorded in late February and the first confirmed coronavirus death was registered on 5 March.

Although wearing face masks is not mandatory in Switzerland, it is recommended in some circumstances. Waiting staff have been asked to maintain a two-metre distance as much as possible and not to linger at tables when serving or collecting.

Meanwhile, a restaurant in the Dutch city of Amsterdam has put forward its own ideas on combining eating out with social distancing. It has proposed seating diners in little glass cabins, to keep them safely cocooned from other patrons.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

Uncertainties remain

There are no guarantees that the move will be greeted enthusiastically by the Swiss public.

Heidi Hanselmann, President of the Conference of Health Directors and President of the Swiss Canton of St Gallen, has raised concerns about a possible second wave of infection. “The price for rushing could be a heavier impact on the population," she said. "We shouldn't give away lightly what we have successfully achieved over weeks with painful limitations."

There are also concerns about the viability of opening a bar or restaurant under the new controls. Increasing the distance between tables will lead to establishments reducing the number of customers they are able to accommodate. And with that will come a decrease in the amount of money they can make. For some, it might not make financial sense to reopen at all.

Elsewhere in Europe, other countries are beginning to ease their restrictions too. In Spain, people have been allowed to leave their homes for exercise for the first time in weeks. In Germany, many small businesses are already open, and carmaker Volkswagen has reopened one of its factories.