‘An absurd situation’: Swiss retailers left baffled by shop closing rules

'An absurd situation': Swiss retailers left baffled by shop closing rules
There's confusion as to what to put in this bag. Photo by AFP
Starting on Monday, all non-essential stores in Switzerland must close their doors and stay shut until the end of February. But many retailers say the rules are very confusing.

The Swiss Federal Council has designated these businesses as “essential” and allowed to continue their activities: 

  • Grocery and other stores, provided that they sell food or other basic necessities and everyday consumption goods 
  • Pharmacies, drugstores and stores that sell medical devices
  • Repair and maintenance shops, such as laundries, sewing shops, shoemakers, locksmith services, as well as car and bicycle shops, as long as they offer a repair service
  • Hardware and gardening stores 
  • Flower shops
  • Fuel stations
  • Beauty and wellness services

Curiously, items such as perfumes, cosmetics, kitchen utensils, tableware, envelopes, house plants and flowers, photo equipment, and gardening tools are also classified by the government as essential goods.

READ MORE: 'Everyday goods': Which shops can stay open in Switzerland from Monday? 

But retailers say that the list drawn up by the Federal Council lacks coherence.

One reason is that the same shop can sell certain items but not others.

For instance, Daniel Wagmann, owner of a kitchen store in Solothurn told 20 Minutes news site he doesn’t understand why he is allowed to sell utensils, but the sale of light bulbs is banned. 

“Why does a perfume store have the right to open when I don't have the right to sell light bulbs? he asked.

“If the government wants to lock everything down, it should do it right, instead of making this complicated for non-food businesses”, he added.

Christa Markwalder, president of Swiss Retail Federation, also said the rules make no sense.

 “We are facing an absurd situation. One of our members, for example, had been denounced for selling potted basil, banned because it was considered a plant, while basil leaves in sachets were authorised”, she pointed out.

Mike Schüpbach, a legal expert at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) conceded the government’s list “is a compromise that may seem contradictory to some”.

Patrick Mathys, head of FOPH’s infection control unit also admitted to 20 Minutes that the epidemiological effectiveness of new measures could not be “verified precisely”.

The closing of non-essential businesses is part of a set of measures being implemented from January 18th in an effort to rein in the spread of the new variants of the Covid virus.

READ MORE: Switzerland to impose stricter coronavirus measures from Monday 

They also include mandatory working from home, and a limit of up to five people for private and public get-togethers.


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