Coronavirus: Restrictions on private events, no gatherings in public of more than 15 people; masks mandatory in more areas and working from home recommended

Bern, 18.10.2020 - At an extraordinary meeting on 18 October, the Federal Council introduced several further national measures to combat the rapid rise in coronavirus infections. From Monday, 19 October spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 persons are not permitted in public. A mask must be worn in publicly accessible indoor areas, including in all railway stations and airports, and at bus and tram stops. Moreover, there are now new rules for private events of more than 15 persons, and in restaurants, bars and clubs food and drink may only be consumed sitting down. Following consultations with the cantons, the Federal Council has adapted the Special Situation COVID-19 Ordinance accordingly. This now also includes a recommendation to work from home.

The rapid rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days is a cause for great concern. The number of cases is on the increase in all age groups and across all cantons. The number of persons admitted to hospital is also rising. The new national measures agreed by the federal government and the cantons aim to better protect the public’s health and to prevent the health system from becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks and months. The intention is also to considerably curb the number of new cases so that the cantons can continue to contract trace effectively. Despite the restrictions, it is hoped that the economy can continue to function and people can live their lives with as little disruption as possible.

Masks now mandatory in the whole of Switzerland

The requirement for persons over the age of 12 to wear a mask on public transport has been in place since 6 July. From Monday 19 October this will be extended to railway stations including platforms, airports and other publicly accessible public transport areas. As before, persons who are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons are exempt from the requirement.

Masks are now also compulsory in publicly accessible indoor spaces including all shops, shopping centres, banks, post offices, museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, indoor areas of zoos and botanical gardens, restaurants, bars, discos, casinos, hotels (with the exception of guests’ rooms), entrance areas and changing rooms in swimming pools, sports facilities and gyms, doctor’s surgeries, hospitals and places of worship, advisory centres and neighbourhood centres. Masks must also be worn in publicly accessible areas of administrative buildings.

Face masks must also be worn in all schools and higher education establishments, in child-care facilities and in the training areas of sport and fitness centres if part of the centre’s precautionary measures.

Rules for private events

Many people become infected with the coronavirus when families and friends gather. Gatherings should be avoided were possible. At private events attended by over 15 people, food and drink may only be consumed while seated. Anyone standing up must wear a mask. Furthermore, hygiene rules must be observed at all times and contact details must be recorded. For private events of more than 100 people there must be a set of precautionary measures (as for public events) and may only be held in publicly accessible venues.

Gatherings of more than 15 not permitted in public  

Spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 persons are not permitted in public spaces such as town squares, streets, paths and parks. The aim is to prevent private events moving outdoors. Organised outdoor events such as political and civil society demonstrations are permitted provided precautionary measures are observed.

Seating requirement in bars, clubs and restaurants

In restaurants, bars and clubs, food and drink may only be consumed while seated, both indoors and out.

Working from home recommended

The Federal Council has added a paragraph on working from home to the Special Situation COVID-19 Ordinance. Employers are now required to observe the recommendation by the Federal Office of Public Health for employees to work from home. This will prevent large numbers of people coming together, particularly at peak times, and reduce close contact in the workplace. It will also reduce the risk of a whole work team having to go into quarantine if one member becomes infected with COVID-19.

Since 19 June, the cantons have played the lead role in combating the COVID-19 epidemic in Switzerland. The Confederation still expects the cantons to conduct widespread testing, implement a sound system of contract tracing and employ targeted measures to help fight the epidemic.

Address for enquiries

Federal Office of Public Health, Communication
Infoline Coronavirus +41 58 463 00 00
Infoline for people travelling to Switzerland +41 58 464 44 88


The Federal Council

Federal Office of Public Health

Federal Department of Home Affairs