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Is Switzerland really a ‘coronavirus paradise’ compared to Germany?

German tabloid Bild on Sunday compared the coronavirus situation in Germany and Switzerland, reporting that the freedoms in the latter made Switzerland a “coronavirus paradise”. But is it really?

Is Switzerland really a 'coronavirus paradise' compared to Germany?
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

According to a report published on Sunday by German tabloid Bild, the Swiss canton of Zug is a “city of happiness” full of “happy people who have the courage to live”. 

The tabloid, which paid a visit to the central canton of Zug on April 11th, was critical of Germany’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and suggested they should take a leaf out of the book of their southern neighbours. 

In particular, Bild wrote that the rules in Switzerland were much clearer and easier to understand as they were put in place across all of the country’s 26 cantons, unlike the supposed ‘patchwork’ of rules in place in Germany. 

“What is allowed in Switzerland and what is not fits on a beer mat” the tabloid wrote. 

‘It feels like a coronavirus paradise’: The Bild article from April 11th.

Is Switzerland really a coronavirus paradise? 

The report is part of a long-running series by the German tabloid – one of the most persistent critics of Chancellor Angela Merkel – which contrasts the supposed freedom afforded to people in Switzerland with the stricter rules of Germany. 

On closer examination however, the report does gloss over some of the major differences between the two countries. 

First and foremost, while the differences in coronavirus rules from canton to canton may be less significant than they are across German states, this has not always been the case. 

Indeed, for the majority of the pandemic, neighbouring Swiss cantons put in place vastly different rules – leading to concerns of people travelling across borders to go shopping or visit restaurants. 

The current legal situation in Germany and Switzerland is also remarkably similar, in the there are a set of agreed federal minimums, with states free to put in place stricter measures when certain metrics are met – for instance hospitalisations, infection rates and intensive care unit capacity. 

As at April 2021 however, cantonal variations are comparatively minimal – although several Swiss cantons have considered allowing bars and restaurants with terraces to open even without federal approval. 

Are the rules different in Switzerland and Germany? 

Despite the suggestions made in the report, not all rules in Switzerland are more relaxed. Indeed, some are stricter. 

As in Germany, bars and restaurants have been forced to close in Switzerland (other than for takeaway food and drinks) since late December.

The rules on wearing masks is largely the same in Switzerland and Germany, although most areas require an FFP2 mask in the latter rather than a simple cloth or medicinal mask. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current coronavirus measures?

Masks are required for workers in all indoor areas in Switzerland, unlike in Germany, where they are only required in workplaces with “confined spaces”. Also unlike Germany, in Switzerland masks are also required for all car drivers and passengers (unless they all live in the same household). 

Also unlike in Germany, working from home has been mandatory in Switzerland for several months. In Germany, workers are “strongly encouraged” to work from home where possible, however there is no obligation.

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COVID-19

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

As much of Germany lifts - or prepares to lift - the last remaining Covid-19 measures, intensive care units say Covid-19 admissions are no longer straining the system.

Is the pandemic over in Germany?

Despite a difficult winter of respiratory illnesses, intensive care units in Germany say Covid-19 admissions have almost halved. The number of cases having to be treated in the ICU has gone down to 800 from 1,500 at the beginning of this month.

“Corona is no longer a problem in intensive care units,” Gernot Marx, Vice President of the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine, told the German Editorial Network. “A the moment, we don’t have to think every day about how to still ensure the care of patients, but how to actually run a service that can help.”

Marx said the drop has allowed them to catch up on many postponed surgeries.

The number of sick employees in hospitals is also falling, helping to relieve the pressure on personnel.

The easing pressure on hospitals correlates with the assessment of prominent virologist and head of the Virology department at Berlin’s Charite – Christian Drosten – who said in December that the pandemic was close to ending, with the winter wave being an endemic one.

German federal and state governments are now in the midst of lifting the last of the country’s pandemic-related restrictions. Free Covid-19 antigen tests for most people, with exceptions for medical personnel, recently ended.

READ ALSO: Free Covid-19 tests end in Germany

Six federal states – Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Hessen, Thuringia, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein – have ended mandatory isolation periods for people who test positive for Covid-19.

Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt, and Schleswig-Holstein have ended the requirement to wear FFP2 masks on public transport, while Berlin, Brandenburg, Saxony, Thuringia, and Mecklenburg-West Pomerania will follow suit on February 2nd.

At that time, the federal government will also drop its requirement for masks to be worn on long-distance trains. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil says that’s when he also intends to exempt workplaces – apart from medical locations – from a mask requirement.

READ ALSO: Germany to drop mask mandate in trains and buses from February 2nd

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg will also end the requirement for patients to wear a mask in doctor’s offices. That’s a requirement that, so far, will stay in place everywhere else. Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach has also said that he thinks this requirement should remain. 

But some public health insurers and general practitioners are calling for a nationwide end to the obligation for wearing masks in doctor’s offices.

“The pandemic situation is over,” National Association of Statutory Health Physicians (KBV) Chair Andreas Gassen told the RND network. “High-risk patients aren’t treated in all practices. It should generally be left up to medical colleagues to decide whether they want to require masks in their practices.”

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