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Switzerland: ‘Hundreds of thousands’ of Covid certificates to expire on Tuesday

Due to shorter validity, hundreds of thousands of Covid certificates are set to expire on February 1st.

A poster informs people of the need for a Covid certificate
A poster informs people of the need for a Covid certificate. Image: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In mid-January, the Swiss government announced it was shortening the duration of Covid certificates from one year to nine months, with the change set to come into effect on February 1st. 

The reason for the shorter 270-day duration of the certificate is new evidence about the duration of protection from either vaccination or contracting the virus and recovering. 

As a result of this change, hundreds of thousands of certificates are set to expire on February 1st – with many of those unaware their certificates are now invalid. 

Anyone who received their second dose before May 2021 and has not received a booster will no longer have a valid certificate from Tuesday onwards. 

While exact figures on the number of certificates set to expire have not been made available by Swiss authorities, state news agency SRF estimates at least 250,000 certificates will become invalid overnight. 

Covid certificates are currently required for visiting bars and restaurants in Switzerland, while they are also a requirement of international travel. 

They are not required to sit outside on terraces and balconies of restaurants, nor is the Covid certificate required to go skiing. 

Gastrosuisse President Kasimir Platzer told SRF he was concerned the hospitality sector would take another hit when people were turned away for having invalid Covid certificates. 

Many people in Switzerland struggled to get a booster shot in the early days of 2021 but boosters are now more available on a widespread basis. 

How much longer will the Covid certificate be required? 

Due to the stable situation in Swiss hospitals and the apparently more mild impact of the Omicron variant, Swiss authorities are considering a widespread relaxation of measures. 

In late January, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said further relaxations could be likely from February 16th, although he declined to state which were being considered. 

Berset already announced on Friday that quarantine rules for contact cases and obligation to work from home will come to an end from Wednesday, February 2nd, but warned the pandemic was not yet over. 

According to a report in Switzerland’s SonntagsZeitung newspaper on Sunday, the Covid certificate requirement in indoor venues like restaurants, as well as other places and events where it is currently compulsory, would be abolished on February 16th.

The newspaper said the report was based on information received from federal authorities. 

READ MORE: Could Switzerland lift its Covid measures by February 16th?

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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.