New coronavirus: Protect yourself and others

How can you protect yourself and others against the new coronavirus? The campaign ‘Protect yourself and others’ tells you how you can apply basic hygiene rules and what to do if you experience symptoms such as shortness of breath, a cough and a high temperature.

The main ways the new coronavirus is transmitted

  • By close and prolonged contact: If you’re closer than two metres to a person who has con-tracted the illness for more than 15 minutes.
  • By droplet infection: If one person sneezes or coughs, the virus can be transported directly to the mucous membranes in the nose, mouth or eyes of other people.
  • Via your hands: Infectious droplets can get onto your hands from coughing and sneezing. Or you come into contact with a surface contaminated with the virus. They can then get into your system if you touch your mouth, nose or eyes.

How to protect yourself and others

Keep your distance.

Keep your distance.

Keep your distance from other people. Infection with the new coronavirus can occur through close (less than 2 metres) and prolonged (over 15 minutes) contact with someone who is already infected. You can protect yourself and others by keeping your distance.

  • Avoid groups of people.
  • Leave space between you and the person in front of you when standing in line (for example at the checkout, post office or canteen).
  • At meetings leave a seat free between you and the person next to you.
  • Keep your distance from close family and friends at especially high risk.
  • Keep visits to care homes and hospitals to an absolute minimum.

Keep your distance on public transport

The public transport network is vital to the functioning of the economy, and is relied on by many people. The basic service will therefore be provided as normal. However, if a lot of people use public transport at the same time, they cannot keep their distance from each other and so risk becoming infected with the new coronavirus.

Avoid using public transport

If possible, go to work on foot or by bicycle.

If you have to use public transport for some essential reason, observe the hygiene recommendations.

Avoid using public transport if you are over 65 years old.

 Wash your hands thoroughly.

Wash your hands thoroughly.

Handwashing is of crucial importance when it comes to hygiene. You can protect yourself by regularly washing your hands and taking good care of them.

When should I wash my hands?

As often as possible and in particular:

  • before preparing food
  • before a meal
  • before feeding children
  • after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • every time you come home
  • after using public transport
  • after visiting someone who is ill or after close contact with materials, equipment or personal items used by people who are ill
  • before putting in or removing contact lenses
  • after taking off a hygiene mask
  • after going to the toilet
  • after changing nappies or accompanying a child to the toilet
  • after handling household waste
  • if your hands are dirty

How do I wash my hands properly?

It’s very important to use the right method when you wash your hands. Soap alone isn’t enough to render germs harmless. To do that you have to get the combination of soaping, rubbing, rinsing and drying right. Here’s how:

  • Wet your hands under running water.
  • Soap your hands – if possible with liquid soap.
  • Rub your hands together until you get a lather. Don’t forget to rub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, under your fingernails and your wrists.
  • Rinse your hands thoroughly with running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel, if possible a disposable paper towel or a cloth roller towel.

What else do I have to remember?

  • It is best not to wear any rings. If you are wearing a ring: take it off before washing your hands, clean it with soap and dry it well.
  • Take care of your skin: damaged, chapped skin can be a hotbed of germs. Use cream to moisturise your skin.
  • Keep your fingernails short and regularly use a nailbrush to stop dirt from collecting under your nails.
 Avoid shaking hands.

Don’t shake hands.

Depending on what we have just touched, our hands are not clean. Infectious droplets from coughing and sneezing can get onto your hands. They can then get into your system when you touch your mouth, nose or eyes. It’s therefore important not to shake hands. We can also protect ourselves from infection by:

  • Not shaking hands.
  • Not kissing to greet people.
  • Not touching your nose, mouth and eyes.
Cough and sneeze into a paper tissue/handkerchief or the crook of your arm.

Cough and sneeze into a paper tissue or the crook of your arm.

Blowing your nose, sneezing, spitting and coughing can all spread viruses if you don’t follow the rules.

How can I reduce or avoid the risk of spreading the virus?

  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, ideally with a paper tissue.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm rather than into your hands. If you do use your hands, wash them thoroughly with water and soap immediately af-terwards if possible.
  • Only use paper tissues (not cloth handkerchiefs) to blow your nose.
  • Spit into a tissue.
  • Wash your hands afterwards every time you cough, sneeze or spit into a tissue.
  • Use a paper tissue, and use it only once. Then dispose of it.
Stay at home if you have a high temperature or a cough.

Stay at home from now on.

Except in the following cases:

  • You have to buy groceries
  • You have to go to the doctor’s/to the pharmacy
  • You have to help others
  • You are unable to work from home and have to go to work

If you are over the age of 65 or have an underlying medical condition, we strongly recommend you stay at home!

The only exception:

  • You have to go to the doctor’s.
 Always call ahead before going to the doctor’s or the emergency department.

Always call ahead before going to the doctor’s or the emergency department.

If you are only experiencing mild symptoms such as a temperature and a cough you don’t need to call a doctor. Doctors and healthcare facilities only have limited capacity. 

However, if you are a vulnerable person, or if your symptoms get worse (high temperature, breathing difficulties or shortness of breath), call a doctor or healthcare facility.

Vulnerable persons are people over the age of 65, and those with underlying medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer or conditions and therapies that weaken the immune system.

  • Call your doctor to see if you need to make an appointment.
  • Notify your doctor if you are among those at high risk.

Only go to a hospital emergency department if your condition deteriorates and your doctor cannot be reached. In such cases, you must still call ahead.


Recommendations for people over the age of 65 and those with an underlying medical condition

Are you over age 65 or have an underlying medical condition (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases or cancer)? Then we recommend the following:

  • Stay at home.
  • Avoid public transport.
  • Have a friend or neighbour get your shopping for you.
  • Conduct business and private meetings via Skype or similar channels.
  • Keep visits to nursing homes and hospitals to an absolute minimum.
  • Avoid contact with people.
  • Stay at home if you have difficulties breathing, a cough or a high temperature. Call your doctor or a hospital immediately. State that you are calling in connection with the new coronavirus and are at a higher risk of illness. Describe your symptoms.

Recommendations for old people’s homes and nursing homes

Nursing and old people’s homes should prohibit visits to safeguard their residents as far as possible from infection.

The information campaign website

Further information

Downloads in various languages

Posters, videos, factsheets… information in numerous world languages to download and share.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about the new coronavirus

Do you have any questions regarding the risk of infection, travel and tourism, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, and protecting yourself from infection? You will find many answers here.

Recommendations for travellers

There is a risk of becoming infected with the new coronavirus in almost all parts of the world. Increasing numbers of countries are introducing measures such as border closures. Expect travel restrictions on international journeys.

Last modification 27.03.2020

Top of page


Due to the extraordinary situation we are unable to respond in writing to enquiries.

Please refer instead to our webpages, which are continuously updated.

Under Contacts and links you will find contact information for the FOPH, other federal agencies and the cantons.

Print contact