New coronavirus: Masks

It is required to wear a face mask on public transport throughout Switzerland. 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 physical barrier such as a partition is in place.

In view of the increasing number of people travelling and the rising number of new infections, the Federal Council is tightening the measures to protect the population. On 1 July 2020, it took the decision to make masks compulsory on all forms of public transport; this measure came into effect on 6 July 2020.

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.

Masks compulsory on public transport

People over the age of 12 must wear a mask on all forms of public transport. This applies on trains, trams, buses, funicular railways, cable cars and boats – including on the outside deck. The only exception is on ski lifts and chair lifts.

Children under the age of 12 do not have to wear a mask. Individuals who are unable to wear a mask for a particular reason, primarily medical, are also exempt. Reasons may include facial injuries, acute shortness of breath, anxiety when wearing a mask and disabilities that make wearing a mask intolerable or impossible. Public transport staff in particular may remove their mask in order to communicate with someone with impaired hearing.

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.

You are only required to wear a mask on the means of transport. It is not necessary to wear a mask on the platform or while waiting at a stop. However, you should wear a mask in these situations if you are unable to maintain a distance of 1.5 metres to other people.

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

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.

We recommend you wear a mask when you visit the doctor or go to a hospital. Find out what the requirements are for each individual facility before visiting.

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, cycling or shopping (cantonal regulations reserved), then you do not need to wear a mask. The risk of becoming infected by the breath of another person in these situations is very slight.

At private events, such as a family meal or birthday party, you should observe the hygiene and social distancing rules. If this is not possible and someone present at the event later tests positive for the new coronavirus, the event organiser should inform the cantonal authorities of your contact details. All those present at the event should be made aware that their contact details may be used for contact tracing.

Restaurants, bars and clubs should have a set of precautionary measures in place, which may include the wearing of masks. If this is not the case, then a contract tracing system should be implemented, and all visitors and staff must be informed that they are exposed to a higher risk of infection by visiting the venue or taking part in the event.

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 standard 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 textile mask or disposable face 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 recommended standard 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

Recommendations for everyday life

You can find information and tips for day-to-day activities and living in times of the new coronavirus here.

Requirements for sets of precautionary measures

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 04.08.2020

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