On April 29th, Switzerland announced a surprise early easing of lockdown requirements. Bars, restaurants and gyms were to reopen on May 11th rather than on June 8th as had been predicted.
Although Switzerland is one of the first countries anywhere in the world to make such a move, the reopening will only be allowed if certain social distancing, hygiene and tracking measures are followed.
These include table service at all venues, no groups larger than four (other than families) and compulsory data requirements, but the wearing of masks will remain only a recommendation.
Social distancing in all venues
All restaurants and bars will be required to ensure that guests are social distanced from each other, regardless of whether they provide indoor or outdoor seating.
No more than four people will be allowed to sit at one table, while all guests must be seated.
Therefore, pubs and bars will be allowed to open provided seating is provided and patrons are given table service.
Groups of guests must sit more than two metres away from other groups, or be separated by some form of partitioning such as plexiglass or wood.
Groups of guests are not allowed to mix with one another.
Parents and their children will be an exception to the four-person limit, with families allowed to sit groups larger than four.
Guests must be able to wash or disinfect their hands when entering and exiting the restaurant.
Additionally, a distance of two metres is recommended for service, while servers are encouraged to minimise the duration of contact with guests.
Masks are recommended if a distance of two metres cannot be kept or if the duration of contact is likely to be longer.
All guests must provide full names and telephone numbers in order to enter
Visitors to restaurants and pubs will be required to provide their full name and phone number in order to enter to enter bars and restaurants from May 11th.
Venues will need to collect the full names and the phone numbers of everyone who attends, as well as their table number and the date and time that they attended. This is being done so that people can be contacted if an outbreak is subsequently detected.
According to Gastrosuisse President Casimir Platzer, the requirement is a form of ‘analog’ contact tracing and has been developed in tandem between restaurants and the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
As reported by Swiss tabloid Blick on Tuesday, the requirement is binding upon all establishments when they reopen.
If someone has tested positive, other patrons can be quickly contacted to prevent further outbreaks.
An empty restaurant in Lausanne. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Platzer said patrons were unlikely to let their concerns about providing their personal information overshadow their desire to again visit restaurants.
“The people who are looking forward to visiting a restaurant are ready to hand over the data”
All restaurants and pubs are required to collect the information, even if they are not a member of the peak body.
Pursuant to the rules negotiated by the peak body and the government, guest information must be deleted 14 days after the visit, provided no infection has occurred.
Gastrosuisse has told venues that they must comply with the rule and delete the data, otherwise they would risk losing the trust of their customers.
Some restaurants and bars have promised to keep the information on paper rather than in a centralised data file to encourage guests that their data will be protected.
‘Opening to dig your own grave is useless’
While some in the hospitality sector have welcomed the measures in allowing them to open again, others have indicated that they will either not be able to comply with the rules or that they will not be able to turn a profit while doing so.
A survey in the canton of Fribourg found just over a quarter of restaurants would open pursuant to the new rules, while one quarter said it would not be possible. A further 49 percent said they were unsure whether they would be able to comply.
Muriel Hauser, owner of Café du Gothard, told Swiss media outlet Le Temps that opening pursuant to the new rules would do more harm than good.
“Profitability is the big issue. Many establishments will have no interest in opening,” she said.
“If a restaurant owner has to cut 50, 60 or even 70% of the number of their places, with fixed costs like rent, their economic activity will become unprofitable.
“Opening to dig your own grave is useless.” Bars and restaurants in Switzerland will open again on Monday. Here’s how they will comply with social distancing requirements.