For members


Should Switzerland abolish the Covid certificate?

Amid the dual impact of vaccination protection and the comparatively mild Omicron variant, some experts have called for the abolition of the Covid certificate.

A person has their Covid certificate checked.
The Covid certificate is now an ever-present part of life in Switzerland. When will it be phased out? Should Switzerland abolish the Covid certificate? Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

When originally expanded in September 2021, Switzerland’s Covid certificate requirement was given an expiry date of January 24th, 2022. 

EXPLAINED: How long will Switzerland keep the Covid certificate in place?

Since then, the deadline has been extended until at least March 31st, 2022 – and the government has not ruled out the possibility of further extensions. 

A legal expert from Zurich has however called for the Covid certificate to be wound back, due to the stable situation in the country’s hospitals. 

Felix Uhlmann, a professor of constitutional law who was previously in favour of expanding the Covid certificate, says it should be rolled back. 

“It is actually time to rethink the previous logic of measures,” Uhlmann told Switzerland’s NZZ newspaper. 

Uhlmann said the current development of the pandemic “did not justify such drastic restrictions on the unvaccinated”. 

Uhlmann however did not advocate for a complete removal of all measures, saying that more needed to be done to protect those in vulnerable groups, including a potential mandatory vaccination requirement for those aged over 60. 

READ MORE: Will Switzerland make the Covid vaccine compulsory?

Switzerland’s right-wing SVP, the country’s largest political party, has also called for the removal of the certificate privately, NZZ reports, although the party agreed on Wednesday to extend the certificate’s validity until the end of March. 

The United Kingdom for instance announced on Thursday that most Covid measures will be reduced by the end of January. 

‘The pandemic is not finished’

The Federal Council on Wednesday however reiterated its commitment to the certificate, saying it would wind back the certificate “as soon as the situation allows”. 

“We are in the fifth wave. We don’t yet know how it will develop,” Berset said. 

“Possibly – perhaps – we have passed the zenith of this wave. But we don’t know.

“The corona pandemic is not finished.”

READ MORE: Covid in Switzerland: How common are hospitalisations and deaths among the boosted?

Several experts agree with the government, saying that despite the promising current trends, the Covid certificate still plays and important role. 

Markus Schefer, a constitutional law expert, said removing the Covid certificate requirement now would be presumptuous. 

“If it turns out that the effects of an infection no longer justify the restrictions on individual freedom, then the obligation to obtain a certificate must be lifted.”

“At the moment, the further development seems to be wide open. And we don’t yet know what long-Covid consequences the omicron wave will have.”

Infectiologist Huldrych Günthard told Switzerland’s Watson newspaper that while he was optimistic “I don’t believe in quick fixes”. 

“We just haven’t gotten to the point yet to get rid of the certificate.”

Günthard noted that a major reason for the positive change is the greater proportion of vaccinated members of the population, in which the certificate plays a role. 

“The certificate is also intended to put some pressure on unvaccinated people to get vaccinated after all.”

At a referendum in November 62 percent of the Swiss populace voted in favour of the country’s Covid protections, including the current use of the Covid certificate. 

Member comments

  1. No democracy should coerce its citizens into taking a medical procedure. England has barely used Covid Certificates for this reason. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have used the certificates extensively as well as mask mandates and yet have had the same level of infections as England. Real world evidence shows that neither policy makes any difference. Look at France. Unfortunately governments have frightened their people and themselves into thinking they work. Yet we all know vaccines don’t stop transmission, they only protect the individual. Personally, I would recommend older people especially to get their vaccinations (I’ve had three) but mandating them or coercing people is not acceptable in a democracy.

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For members


Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

Several Swiss cantons have expressed a desire to keep the Covid certificate in place. What does that mean for the relaxation of Covid measures?

Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

On Wednesday February 16th, Switzerland announced an imminent relaxation of almost all Covid measures. 

The decision was made after a two-week consultation with Switzerland’s cantons to decide the way forward out of the pandemic. 

The government announced that almost all Covid measures are being relaxed from Thursday, February 17th.

Covid certificates – which show someone has been vaccinated, recovered or in some cases has tested negative – will no longer be required in restaurants, cinemas or at events.

Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace, while they will continue to be required in public transport for the meantime. 

More information about the relaxed measures can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: Switzerland to scrap Covid certificate and most mask rules

What does this mean at a cantonal level? 

While the federal government no longer requires Covid certificates, they can however be required by the cantons, under the new framework.

Swiss media has previously reported that several cantons want to keep the certificate in place.

READ MORE: Swiss cantons divided on ending Covid measures

During the consultation period, several cantons expressed reservations about completely removing the certificate requirement. 

The small, centralised and predominantly German-speaking cantons of central Switzerland — Zug, Schwyz, Uri, Nidwalden, Obwalden and Glarus —  were in the greatest hurry to return to pre-Covid rules.

These cantons argued that a gradual lifting would be too complicated and difficult for the population to understand.

The southwestern canton of Valais preferred this approach as well, but only “as long as the number of cases and hospitalisations continue to decrease by mid-February”. Otherwise, the lifting of the measures should be done in stages.

However, Geneva, Basel-City, Neuchâtel and Jura said it was too early to lift remaining measures.

“It is too risky at the moment, given the still high load in hospitals”, according to Basel-City, which added that “the effects of the first relaxations, such as teleworking and quarantines, are also not yet known”.

Will some cantons still require a Covid certificate?

Berset clarified on Wednesday that while some cantons had argued for this as part of the consultation process (i.e. on a federal level), they would most likely not unilaterally keep the certificate rule in place from February 17th onwards. 

Berset however said he would need to clarify the matter with cantonal representatives and did not rule out some cantons deciding to keep the certificate in place in some instances – for example in relation to nightclubs or large events.

As at Wednesday afternoon, no cantons have indicated they will keep the certificate requirement in place.