New coronavirus: Masks

Status: 27.10.2020
This page is currently being updated to take account of the latest guidelines.

It is required to wear a mask on public transport and in waiting areas for public transport, on aeroplanes and in publicly accessible inside spaces. We also recommend that you always wear a face mask if you are unable to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from other people and where no partition is in place.

When to wear a mask

The general recommendation in all situations is as follows: Wear a mask if you are unable to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from other people, and where there no physical barrier such as a partition is in place.

Wearing a mask in public primarily protects other people. A person infected with the coronavirus may be infectious for up to two days before symptoms appear without even being aware. If everyone in a crowded place wears a mask, then everyone is protected. Although wearing a mask does not ensure complete protection against the coronavirus, it does slow down the rate of infection.

Wearing of masks compulsory throughout Switzerland

In view of the increasing number of people travelling and the rising number of new infections, the Federal Council already tightened the measures to protect the population on 6 July 2020 and introduced the requirement to wear a mask on all public transport. On 19 October 2020, the Federal Council extended the requirement to wear masks: the wearing of masks is now compulsory in publicly accessible inside spaces of establishments and businesses as well as in waiting and access areas for public transport.

Masks compulsory on public transport and on aeroplanes

It is compulsory to wear a mask on all forms of public transport. This means that you must wear a mask on trains, trams, buses, funicular railways, cable cars and boats. However, it is not required to wear a mask on ski lifts and chair lifts.
Masks are also compulsory on all scheduled and charter flights taking off from and landing in Switzerland.

The requirement to wear a mask also applies to individuals waiting on platforms or at tram and bus stops as well as to individuals at train stations, airports or other access areas for public transport, irrespective of whether these areas are located outside.

Masks are compulsory at all times, no matter how many people are travelling. If you refuse to wear a mask on public transport, you may be asked by the transport staff to get off at the next stop. If you refuse to do so, you may receive a fine.

It is not compulsory to wear a mask in the restaurant area nor during times when otherwise eating or drinking on public transport.

Wearing of masks compulsory in publicly accessible inside spaces

Wearing a mask is compulsory in all publicly accessible inside spaces and establishments. These include the following:

  • Shops, shopping centres, banks and post offices
  • Museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres and concert venues
  • Inside spaces of zoological and botanical gardens as well as animal parks
  • Restaurants, bars, discos, casinos and hotels (with the exception of guest rooms)
  • Entrance areas and changing rooms of swimming pools, sports facilities and gyms
  • Healthcare facilities, medical practices and publicly accessible areas of hospitals and care homes
  • Social facilities, advisory centres and neighbourhood centres
  • Publicly accessible areas of administrative buildings, including those of social services and courts, as well as publicly accessible inside spaces in which parliaments and municipal assemblies meet

Wearing of masks compulsory at private events with 16 people or more

It is compulsory to wear a mask at private events with 16 to 100 people.  

Exceptions from the requirement to wear a mask

Children under the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask.

Individuals aged 12 and over are also not required to wear a mask in the following cases:

  • You can prove that you are unable to wear a mask for a specific reason. Such reasons include facial injuries, acute shortness of breath, anxiety when wearing a mask and disabilities that make wearing a mask intolerable or impossible.
  • You visit a restaurant, bar or club and sit at a table for the consumption of food and drink. Please note: you are only allowed to remove your mask when seated. When making your way to your seat or going to the toilet at such an establishment, the requirement to wear a mask also applies here.
  • You are receiving a medical or cosmetic service for your face.
  • You are protected by a precautionary measure in the form of barriers or partitions. Such barriers include, for example, plastic or glass panes.
  • You perform as an artist or are an athlete and are unable to undertake your activity due to wearing a mask. In such cases, however, other precautionary measures must be in place and, in particular, the rules on social distancing must be observed

Situations in which wearing a mask is recommended

In situations with close physical contact, for example at the hairdresser’s, at a beauty salon, massage or tattoo studio, both the client and the staff should wear a mask when a distance of 1.5 metres cannot be maintained.

Employers in all sectors must ensure that employees can observe the FOPH recommendations on hygiene and social distancing, and should have suitable measures in place. This may involve wearing a mask, for example in the case of bar or restaurant staff.

Situations in which it is not necessary to wear a mask

If you just pass someone briefly while out walking, jogging or cycling, then you do not need to wear a mask.

At private events, such as a family meal or birthday party, in which a maximum of 15 people are participating, the hygiene and social distancing rules should generally be observed. If, however, between 16 and a maximum of 100 people participate in such a private event, the contact details of those in attendance must be collected, food and drink may only be consumed when seated and a mask must be worn when not consuming food and drink in a seated area.

Different types of mask

The following types of mask are available on the market:

  • Face mask/surgical mask: Such masks, when used correctly, primarily protect other people from infection. If you have symptoms of an acute respiratory disease, you should use a mask of this kind.
  • Industrially produced textile mask (community mask): When used correctly, this type of covering primarily protects other people from infection. The Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force has drawn up a recommendation which this type of textile mask must meet.
  • Filtering face piece (FFP) or FFP2/FFP3 mask: This type of mask protects the wearer from solid and liquid particles and aerosols. They are worn by medical staff in a work situation. Some of these masks have a vent outlet to make it easier to breathe out. Infected persons with or without symptoms of illness should not use masks with a vent outlet as they do not filter air that is breathed out and so could lead to the virus spreading. The use of FFP masks is not recommended for private use.
  • Other types of face covering (homemade textile face covering, DIY face covering): These types of covering do not provide any reliable protection, and are therefore not recommended.

Covering your face with a scarf of cloth does not protect you sufficiently from becoming infected and is of only limited use in protecting others. A scarf or cloth should not be used instead of a mask.

Visors are also no substitute for a face mask. They protect the eyes from possible infection through droplets, but the possibility of infection via the nose or mouth cannot be excluded. Visors only serve as a complementary form of protection measure in conjunction with a mask.

Wearing a mask correctly

Please note the following information about using masks properly:

  • Use: The mask needs to cover both your nose and mouth. Wash your hands before putting on and taking off the mask, or use hand sanitiser. Touch the mask as little as possible. Textile masks can be used several times, as they can be washed. Disposable face masks (surgical masks) should be used only once. There is currently no scientific evidence with respect to how well disposable face masks offer protection when they are used several times. The video below explains in detail how to use a mask properly.
  • Repeat use: If you use a mask several times – for example because you have only worn it for a short period – hand hygiene and ensuring the correct use and storage of the mask are important: make sure to wash or disinfect your hands before putting the mask on and taking it off and touch the mask as little as possible. Important: if you have an acute respiratory disease, you should use a disposable face mask and only use it once.
  • Storage in the case of repeated use: If possible, after use hang your textile mask on a hook so that it does not come into contact with any other objects. If this is not possible, keep it in a paper bag or envelope, so that you can transport it without it touching other objects in your bag. This will prevent viruses that may be present from being passed on. Plastic bags are not suitable for storage purposes, as they are not permeable to air and the masks do not dry inside them. The viruses also live longer on plastic than they do on paper.
  • Washing: Disposable face masks (surgical masks) cannot be washed. Textile masks can be washed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Duration: You can wear a disposable face mask for up to four hours. Take note of how damp it gets – the damper the mask, the less effective it is at protecting you and others.
  • Disposal: Masks can be disposed of as usual household waste. Make sure that a used mask does not come into contact with anything other than other waste products. Close the bin bag securely. If you are not at home, you can dispose of a used mask in a public waste bin. Wash or disinfect your hands after touching a used mask.
  • People with beards: It makes no difference if you have a beard or not. It is just important to ensure that the mask covers both your nose and your mouth.

The video shows you in detail how to use a mask correctly.

You may find it strange at first to wear a mask, or it may even make you feel as if you are not getting enough air. Don’t worry: a mask lets in enough air. In order to get used to wearing a mask, you may want to wear one for short time at first and then gradually extend the time you wear it.

Buying masks

Surgical and textile masks can be bought in retail shops or online. If buying a textile mask, make sure that it meets the recommendation of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force. Detailed information on the different types of mask can be found in the section Different types of mask.

Medical insurers do not cover the cost of masks. If require masks but cannot afford to buy them, please contact your local social services.

Further information

You will find more information on the topic under the following links:  

Further information

Measures and ordinances

Measures, easing of measures, conditions for reopening, permitted events or activities, still prohibited, criminal provisions, explanations

Requirements for precautionary measures and large-scale events

For businesses/institutions, children and schools, gastronomy sector, medical practices, public transport, sport and recommendations for employers

Contact information and links

New coronavirus: Infoline phone numbers, links to federal and cantonal authorities, and other useful websites

Last modification 28.10.2020

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