Coronavirus: Masks

In Switzerland it is compulsory to wear a mask in many different places. The following general rule applies: wear a mask if you are not at home and cannot keep the requisite distance from other people at all times. The mask should always cover your nose and mouth.

When to wear a mask

The mask-wearing requirement applies all over Switzerland in many different places and situations. In the Wearing of masks compulsory throughout Switzerland section you will find detailed information on this.

Always have a mask with you so that you can put it on wherever it is compulsory to wear a mask. The general rule: always wear a mask if you are unable to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from other people, and where no physical barrier such as a partition is in place.

Wearing a mask in everyday life 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 can help prevent it from spreading so quicky.

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 introduced the requirement to wear masks in publicly accessible indoor spaces of establishments and businesses as well as in waiting and access areas for public transport. On 29 October 2020 the Federal Council further extended the requirement to wear masks: wearing a mask is also compulsory in outdoor areas of publicly accessible establishments and businesses, in certain public areas, in indoor areas at the workplace, and in upper secondary schools (secondary level II).

In addition to the national rules, the cantons can also require the wearing of masks in further areas and situations. For this reason you must always follow the cantonal rules.

You will find detailed information on the national mask-wearing rules below:

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, conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, 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 work at a supplementary childcare facility such as a child daycare centre and wearing a mask makes it significantly more difficult to look after the children. These situations are governed in the relevant set of precautionary measures.
  • You are appearing at an event or establishment, for example as a speaker

If you are an artist/performer or sportsperson, you must follow the rules for culture, arts and sports set down in the ordinance on measures in the special situation to combat the COVID-19 epidemic. In such situations, the mask-wearing requirement applies in accordance with these specific rules.  

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.
  • 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.

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

Protect yourself and others

Rules on hygiene and social distancing: keep your distance, wash your hands, cough/sneeze into a paper tissue/the crook of your arm, stay at home if you experience symptoms, recommendations on wearing masks and working from home

Measures and ordinances

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

Last modification 11.11.2020

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