EXPLAINED: What you should know about restaurant re-openings in French-speaking Switzerland

Restaurants will open again this week in French-speaking cantons in Switzerland. This is what you should know about the rules.

EXPLAINED: What you should know about restaurant re-openings in French-speaking Switzerland
Restaurants in Swiss-French part, like this one in Lausanne, are getting ready to re-open on Thursday. Photo by AFP

More than a month after closing down, restaurants and cafés in Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, Fribourg and Jura will resume their operations on December 10th. In Valais, the re-opening is planned for December 13th.

The cantons said that the decision to re-open “was made in a concerted manner and with a desire for harmonisation and clarity” among the neighbouring regions. 

Authorities noted that the decision to re-open was driven by the steadily declining coronavirus infection rates in the regions, which until the first week of November had been among the most impacted in Switzerland.

The establishments will, however, have to implement several measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus among customers and staff:

  • Tables must be at least 1.5 metres apart and masks must be worn if customers are not seated.
  • Eating will only be permitted while sitting.
  • Only up to four people will be allowed per table.
  • Contact details for tracing must be provided.
  • Establishments must close from 11 pm to 6 am. The only exception will be made on December 31st, when they will be able to stay open until 1 am.

Authorities said they would monitor “for the possible effects of the re-opening on the pandemic. This means the decision can be revoked if the health situation requires it”.

READ MORE: Cafés and restaurants in most of French-speaking Switzerland to re-open on December 10th 

Heated terraces

As there is a lower risk for coronavirus transmission in the open air, restaurants and cafés will be allowed to install special heaters outdoors, to encourage customers to eat outside.

This procedure requires a special permission, and municipalities will grant this authorisation on an exceptional basis.

Different rules for bars

Although the same regulations apply to restaurants in all six cantons, there is divergence concerning pubs.

In Geneva, Fribourg and Valais, bars will have to follow the same rules as restaurants.

But Vaud and Neuchâtel are more restrictive, allowing only bars that serve food to re-open. This means that customers must order food in those bars; if that is not an option, the establishments will remain closed.

In Jura, bars where customers can eat will remain open until 11 pm. But those that don’t serve food will have to close at 6:30 pm.



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What to know about changes to free Covid testing in Switzerland

From January 2023, people in Switzerland will generally have to pay for Covid-19 tests. Here's a look at the changes.

What to know about changes to free Covid testing in Switzerland

What’s happening?

The Swiss Parliament says that from January 1st 2023, the costs of Covid-19 tests will no longer be paid for by the government. 

It means that anyone who wants a Covid test will have to pay for it themselves. 

However, Covid-19 tests ordered by a doctor will be met by health insurance costs “provided the test is required to determine any further medical action,” the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said in a statement.

“Such costs will also, however, be subject to the insurance’s deductible and copayment provisions,” said the FOPH. The test result has no influence on the reimbursement.

Why are the rules changing?

Since the early days of the pandemic, the Swiss government has been covering the cost of Covid tests – at least most of the time.

But testing is expensive – the government spent 2.1 billion francs on tests in 2021, and 1.6 billion this year up to the start of December.

“The continuation of reimbursement for tests that benefit public health would have cost around CHF 100 million in the 1st quarter of 2023, according to estimates by the FOPH, based on a 20 to 30 percent higher test volume than in the past weeks,” the FOPH says.

However, keeping tests free of charge could also lead to additional costs in other areas – such as a potentially greater burden on doctors’ practices and hospitals, the FOPH said.

What’s the reaction?

For infection specialist Jan Fehr, the end of free testing is happening at a bad time.

At the moment, it is difficult to keep track of which respiratory tract infections are having a significant burden on the health system with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza and Covid all circulating at the same time, he told Swiss broadcaster SRF.

“Charging for corona tests from January will lead to even fewer people getting tested and is currently incomprehensible from an epidemiological point of view,” said Fehr.

Santésuisse, the industry association of Swiss health insurers, urged the state to take over the costs of tests again if the Covid situation worsens in future. 

What else should I know?

According to the FOPH, Covid tests are possible in the same facilities as before, such as doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies, hospitals, retirement and nursing homes, as well as in test centres.

Despite tests not being free of charge unless a doctor has ordered them, vaccinations against Covid-19 will continue to be free for people in Switzerland in 2023.