Health and Healthcare Systems

Dinner with friends: how Switzerland is relaxing its coronavirus lockdown

Gerald Bongioanni sets a table on the reopening day of the Cafe du Soleil as Switzerland eases the lockdown measures during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Geneva, May 11, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse - RC2AMG9GO0J0

Switzerland has started easing it's coronavirus restrictions as their confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to fall. Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Sean Fleming
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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COVID-19

  • 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.

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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.

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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.

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