Switzerland


Author: Dr. Marco Rostetter, Attorney-at-Law, Zurich Switzerland

Contact: E-Mail (link) (LinkedIn Profile)

Overview of legal measures as oF August 16, 2020, 00:00 CET as response to the Coronavirus. Please note: Due to the extraordinary situation, the legislation is in continuous evolution and may change very fast.

Introduction

SWITZERLAND is a federal state. The 26 states (Cantons) have sovereignty if a competence ist not assigned to the Confederation. Head of the Confederation is the Federal Council ("Bundesrat" or "Swiss government") consisting of 7 members. To deal with serious disturbances such as a pandemic, the Federal Council may adopt directly on the basis of the Federal Constitution measures and regulations (Art. 185 para 3 Federal Constitution).

Besides the Federal Constitution, several federal acts provide competences to the Federal Council to adopt measures in specific situations like a pandemic. In particular, the Federal Act on the Control of Communicable Human Diseases.

Based on the Federal Constitution and federal acts, the Federal Council hast adopted in the course of the spreading COVID-19 disease stepwise the measures outlined below. All measures are limited in time. If not otherwise specified, the measures are currently limited for a duration of six months.

Apart from the federal measures, Cantons may have adopted extensive measures (e.g. financial aid to businesses, purchase of medical equipment, etc.). However, these measures must be consistent with the measures adopted by the Federal Council.



Please note: English is not an official language of Switzerland and therefore any translation of Swiss law to English has neither legal effect nor legal force.

1. INTERVENTIONS AND RESTRICTIONS

1.1 Legal basis

Emergency legislation of Switzerland has been in constant evolution since COVID-19 outbreak. Since June 22, 2020 the COVID-19 Ordinance 3 is in force, which as been adopted by the Federal Council based on its legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic. The COVID-19 Ordinance 3 is modified stepwise. A current version can be accessed via the following link:

German

In addition, the Federal Council set into force on 20 June 2020 the Ordinance on measures in the special situation to combat the Covid 19 epidemic (Covid-19 Epidemic) which can be accessed via the following link:

German

Between March 13, 2020 and June 2022, the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 was in force. This was the time with the highest infection rate so far. The latest as well as previous versions of COVID-19 Ordinance 2 can be accessed via the following links:

English (Note that English is not an official language of Switzerland and therefore this version has no legal force)

German

Between February 22, 2020 and March 13, 2020 the first "Version" COVID-19 Ordinance was in force which was also the time of the outbreak of the pandemic in Switzerland:

German

1.2 Border and air traffic

Entry into Switzerland

Entry into Switzerland is refused to any person from a country or region at risk unless he or she meets one of the specific conditions (Art. 4 COVID-19 Ordinance 3).

Following countries or regions are currently at risk: All states of the world except Schengen countries

Risk countries or regions are defined as countries or regions whose authorities have ordered exceptional measures to prevent and control the COVID-19 epidemic. The list of countries or regions at risk is published in Annex 1 to the COVID-19 Ordinance 3. The Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP) draws up the list and updates it on an ongoing basis, after consultation with the Federal Department of Home Affairs and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (Art. 3 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance 3).

General

Foreigners who are not included by the scope of the Agreement of 21 June 1991 between the Swiss Confederation, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other, on the free movement of persons (Freizügigkeitsabkommen FZA) or the Convention of 4 January 1960 establishing the European Free Trade Association (EFTA Convention) are not allowed to enter Switzerland if such persons travel from a country at risk and for the purpose of a staying in Switzerland for three months or less. Unless such persons stay with a specific permission and for employment purposes (Article 4 COVID-19 Ordinance 3).

Quarantine

Persons who enter Switzerland and at any time within 14 days prior to entry into a state or territory with increased risk of infection with the coronavirus (state or region with increased risk of infection), are obliged to immediately travel directly to their home or another suitable accommodation. Such person must stay there permanently for 10 days after arrival (quarantine) (Article 2 Ordinance on measures to combat coronavirus in the field of international transportation, Link).

Air traffic

The national airports of Geneva and Zurich may grant the following exemptions for supply and repatriation flights necessary to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences and which cannot be properly handled during daytime operations:

  • Take-offs and landings of non-commercial flights between 22:00 and 06:00.

  • Take-offs and landings of commercial flights between 22:00 and 06:00.

This amendment to the Ordinance on Aviation Structure entered into force on 23 April 2020, 00:00 CET and is limited until 23 October 2020 for the time being (German, French, Italian).

Financial support of airports and airport services providers

On 6 May 2020, the Parliament adopted a new Article 102a of the Aviation Act regarding financial support due to COVID-19 pandemic (German, French, Italian).

1.3 Public transportation

Passengers in public transport vehicles such as trains and trams, buses, ships and cable cars must wear a face mask. Exceptions to this rule are:

a. Children before their 12th birthday;

b. Persons who for special reasons, especially medical reasons, are not able to wear face masks.

(Art. 3a Covid-19 Regulation Special situation)

1.4 Visas

Foreigners who are not included by the scope of the Agreement of 21 June 1991 between the Swiss Confederation, of the one part, and the European Community and its Member States, of the other, on the free movement of persons (Freizügigkeitsabkommen FZA) or the Convention of 4 January 1960 establishing the European Free Trade Association (EFTA Convention) and who travel from a country at risk and for the purpose of a staying in Switzerland for three months or less, are not entitled to a Schengen-Visa. Excepted from this restriction are persons who would seek to stay with a specific permission and for employment purposes (Article 10 COVID-19 Ordinance 3).

1.5 Open Businesses

In general, all businesses are open. On June 20, the Ordinance on measures to combat the Covid 19 epidemic (Ordinance Epidemic) entered in to force (Link).

However, the Federal Council implemented with the Ordinance Epidemic special measures:

Measures concerning facilities and establishments open to the public and events

Operators of publicly accessible facilities and businesses, including educational institutions, and organizers of events must develop and implement a protection concept (Art. 4 Ordinance Epidemic).

Such concept must provide for measures relating to hygiene and distance for the installation, operation or event; the distance may be reduced if appropriate protective measures such as the wearing of a face mask or the installation of appropriate barriers are provided.

If, owing to the nature of the activity, local conditions or for operational or economic reasons, the required distance cannot be maintained or protective measures taken for a certain period of time, provision must be made for the collection of contact details of the persons present as stipulated in Art. 5 Ordinance Epidemic.

Special provisions for events

Article 6 Ordinance Epidemic stipulates that that large events with more than 1000 visitors or more than 1000 participants are prohibited.

For events with more than 300 visitors, a subdivision must be made into standing or seating sectors with a maximum of 300 persons.

Political and civil society demonstrations may be held with more than 1000 persons but participants must wear a face mask.

Events with up to 30 persons, the general rule applies that every person observes the recommendations of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) on hygiene and behavior during the Covid 19 epidemic.

Measures for the protection of workers

Preventive measures (Art. 10 Ordinance Epidemic)

Employers must ensure that employees are able to comply with the BAG's recommendations on hygiene and distance. Appropriate measures must be provided and implemented to comply with this rule.

If the recommended distance cannot be maintained, measures must be taken in accordance with the STOP principle (substitution, technical measures, organisational measures, personal protective equipment), in particular the possibility of home offices, physical separation, separate teams or the wearing of masks.

The competent enforcement authorities may carry out unannounced inspections in enterprises and on site at any time. Employers must allow the competent enforcement authorities access to the premises and locations. The orders issued by the competent enforcement authorities during their on-site inspections must be implemented immediately. (Art. 11 Ordinance Epidemic).

Sanctions

According to Art. 13 Ordinance Epidemic, an operator or organizer who intentionally fails to comply with the obligations set out in Article 4(1) and (2) [protection of employees] or Article 6(2) and (3) [large events] or organizes or conducts an event prohibited under Article 6(1) [event with more than 1000 people] shall be punished with a fine.

1.6 Supply of essential medical goods and medicinal products

Articles 11-24 COVID-19 Ordinance 3 implements measures with regard to

Art. 11 Definition of of relevant goods

Art. 12 Governmental working group on medical goods

Art. 13 Obligation of cantons to notify inventories of relevant goods

Art. 14 Procurement of essential medical supplies

Art. 15 Allocation of essential medical supplies

Art. 16 Supply and distribution of essential medical supplies

Art. 17 Direct marketing by the Confederation of certain medical supplies

Art. 18 Costs

Art. 19 Expropriation of public institutions and private companies

Art. 20 Production

Art. 21 Exemptions from the authorization requirement for medicinal products

Art. 22 Exemptions from the provisions on the importation of medicinal products

Art. 23 Exemptions for medical devices

Art. 24 Exemptions for personal protective equipment

1.7 Shareholder's meetings and other meetings of companies

In the case of meetings of the owners of companies (e.g. shareholder), the organizer may order that the participants may exclusively exercise their rights, regardless of the expected number of participants and without observing the invitation deadline (Art. 27 COVID-19 Ordinance 3):

a. in writing or in electronic form; or

b. by an independent voting representative designated by the organizer.

The organizer shall take decisions during the period until 31 August 2020. The order must be notified in writing or published electronically at least four days before the event.

1.8 Health care

The cantons shall ensure that sufficient capacity (namely beds and specialist staff) is available in hospitals and clinics in the inpatient sector for COVID-19 patients and for other examinations and treatments urgently indicated for medical reasons, especially in the departments of intensive care and general internal medicine. (Art. 25 COVID-19 Ordinance 3).

xPrevious measures

The following measures were in force under the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 which was in effect until June 22. 2022.

x1.2 Border and air traffic (previous measures)


The following measures were in force under the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 which was in effect until June 2022.


Entry into Switzerland
Entry into Switzerland is refused to any person from a country or region at risk unless he or she meets one of the specific conditions (Art. 3 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

  • Following countries or regions are currently at risk:

All states of the world (via air traffic) except Schengen countries (as of 15 April 2020, 00:00 CEST, Link)

  • Under one of the following specific condition the border may be crossed by a person who:

    1. has the Swiss Citizenship

    2. has a travel document and

      • a residence permit, namely a Swiss residence permit, a cross-border commuter permit (if entrance is required for business purposes), a visa issued by Switzerland for the purpose of "business meetings" as specialist in the health sector or for the purpose of "official visits" of major importance; or

      • an entry permit with a visa issued by Switzerland or an assurance of a residence permit

    3. has rights to enter under the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons, has a work-related reason for entering Switzerland and can provide a confirmation of notification (Meldebestätigung/ attestation d’annonce/ attestato di notifica)

    4. carries out commercial transport of goods and has a goods delivery note

    5. is merely entering Switzerland for the purpose of transit with the intention and permission of continuing the journey directly to another country

    6. is in a situation of emergency

    7. is of great importance as specialist in connection with the health sector

  • The person who intends to cross the Swiss border must provide credible evidence (glaubhaft machen) that he/she meets at least one of the above-mentioned specific condition.

The State Secretariat for Migration published on its website a directive regarding implementation of these measures (website, direction: link).

On 8 May 2020, the Federal Council adopted certain amendments to ease restrictions for (German, French, Italian):

  • foreigner entitled to freedom of movement

  • admission to employment of persons not entitled to freedom of movement

These measures have been further eased by amendment of the COVID-19 Ordinance adopted by the Federal Council on 27 May 2020 (Link) as well as amended on 12 June 2020 (Link).

Ban on shopping tourism
As of 15 June 2020, 00:00 CEST, the imposed ban on shopping tourism has been lifted (Link). Before, the import of goods which have been acquired in the course of a journey which has been used exclusively for shopping tourism via a terrestrial border crossing from a neighboring state which is a risk country was prohibited (Art. 3a COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

x1.3 Visas (previous measures)


The following measures were in force under the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 which was in effect until June 2022.


The issuing of Schengen visas and national visas and authorizations to issue visas to persons from countries or regions at risk (currently all countries of the world) is discontinued. Excepted from this are applications from persons who are in a situation of extreme necessity or who are of great importance as specialists in the health sector (Art. 4a COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

This order is limited until 15 June 2020 for the time being (Art. 4a and 12 para. 4 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

On 27 May 2020, the Federal Council adopted an amendment to Art. 4a COVID-19 Ordinance and eased certain restrictions (Link). In particular, for short-time workers and family members apply exemptions.

x1.4 Export control (previous measures)

The export of important protective equipment and essential medical goods from the Swiss territory is subject to authorization by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO. In addition, an authorization under the legislation on therapeutic products and narcotics may be required where appropriate (Art. 4b COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

Subject to reciprocity, export may be allowed to EU Member States and specific overseas countries and territories as well as to Norway and Iceland, the United Kingdom, the Faeroe Islands, Andorra, San Marino and Vatican City.

Important protective equipment and essential medical goods are defined in Annex 3 to the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 and include following

protective equipment:

  • Safety glasses and visors

  • Face shields

  • Mouth and nose protection

  • Protective clothing

  • Gloves

and medical goods:

  • Propofol

  • Rocuronium Bromid

  • Atracurium Besilat

On 8 May 2020. the Federal Council eased certain restrictions (see for details German, French, Italian).

x1.5 Prohibition of crowds (previous measures)

Crowds of more than 5 persons in public areas, namely in public places, on footpaths and in parks, are prohibited (Art. 7c COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

In the case of gatherings of up to 5 persons, a distance of at least two meters must be maintained between the individual persons.

These orders have been limited until 19 April 2020. On 8 April 2020, the Federal Council prolonged the orders until 26 April 2020 for the time being.

As of 6 June 2020, the Federal Council amended COVID-19 Ordinance and included a new Article 6b (Link). This article allows political demonstrations and civil society events with not more than 300 people.

Pursuant to Article 7c COVID-19 Ordinance, Gatherings of more than 30 people in public places, in particular in public squares, on footpaths and in parks, are prohibited, with the exception of gatherings of schoolchildren in rest areas.

In the case of gatherings of up to 30 persons, the recommendations of the FOPH (BAG) concerning hygiene and social distance apply. However, these recommendations on distance are not applicable to persons for whom compliance is inappropriate, namely schoolchildren, parents with their children or persons who can prove to live in the same household.

x1.6 Lockdown (previous measures)

I. INTRODUCTION

Lockdown in Switzerland can be divided into three phases:

  • Pre-phase from 13 March - 16 March 2020

  • Main phase from 16 March - 26 April 2020

  • Easing phase since 27 April 2020

II. PRE-PHASE FROM 13 March - 16 March 2020

During pre-phase, public facilities, schools and universities were open. Prohibited were public gatherings of more than 100 people (Link).

III. MAIN PHASE FROM 16 March - 26 April 2020

The main phase included several restrictions:

Schools and Universities

Classes requiring physical presence at schools, universities and other education and training institutions were prohibited (Art. 5 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

The Cantons provided necessary care services for children who cannot be looked after privately.

Events and Businesses

It was prohibited to hold public or private events, including sporting events and club activities (Art. 6 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

Publicly accessible facilities were closed to the public, namely

a. shops and markets;

b. catering establishments;

c. bar establishments as well as discotheques, nightclubs and erotic establishments;

d. entertainment and leisure establishments, namely museums, libraries, cinemas, concert halls, theaters, casinos, sports centers, fitness centers, swimming pools, wellness centers, ski resorts, botanical and zoological gardens and zoos;

e. establishments providing personal services involving physical contact such as hairdressers, massage parlors, tattoo parlors and beauty salons;

f. camping sites.

These orders were firstly limited until 19 April 2020. On 8 April 2020, the Federal Council prolonged the orders until 26 April 2020 and on 16 April 2020 until 16 May 2020 for the time being. However, as of 27 April 2020, stepwise reductions became effective as outlined below.

IV. EASING PHASE SINCE 27 April 2020

The Federal Government provides on its website an overview on currently implemented easing measures and planned next steps. This overview is available in German, French and Italian and dated as of 27 May 2020.

In particular, the following stepwise reductions of restrictions have been adopted:

Schools and Universities

  • The Federal Council adopted on 29 April 2020 two ordinances regarding final examinations in vocational schools (Berufsschulen, Berufsmaturitätsprüfungen, Link) and grammar schools (Gymnasien, Maturitätsprüfungen, Link).

  • On 29 April 2020, the Federal council also adopted following easing of restrictions regarding schools, entering into force on 11 May 2020 (Link).

    • Cantons may permit classroom teaching in schools if a protection scheme is implemented which minimizes risk of infections. This includes all children on mandatory school levels (usually nine years of school, starting at seven years old).

    • Higher school levels (e.g. Universities) are not allowed to hold courses requiring physical presence of more than five students.

  • An additional Ordinance on the implementation the Swiss Matura examination 2020 in view of the pandemic of the coronavirus has been adopted by the Federal Council on 13 May 2020 (Link).

  • On 27 May 2020, the Federal Council decided to allow physical presence at all schools and universities as of 6 June 2020. However, all educational facilities must implement a concept to minimize infections (Link).

  • On 27 May 2020, the Federal Council adopted the Ordinance on the measures concerning the federal examination in human medicine 2020 in view of the coronavirus pandemic (Link). This ordinance implements a special procedure for the federal examination 2020.

  • On 4 June 2020, an Ordinance on the conduct of the Federal Professional Baccalaureate Examination 2020 (eidgenössischen Berufsmaturitätsprüfung) in view of the coronavirus pandemic has been adopted (Link).

Events and Businesses

Reduction of restrictions as of 27 April 2020

On 16 April 2020, the Federal Council adopted following reduction of aforementioned measures effective as of 27 April 2020, 00:00 CET by adopting an amendment to Art. 6 and 6a of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 (German, French, Italian):

  • No longer closed are:

- Do-it-yourself stores (Baumärkte) and garden centres, nurseries (Gärtnereien) and florists;

- establishments providing personal services involving physical contact such as hairdressers, massages, tattoo studios and cosmetics;

- self-service facilities such as solarium, car wash facilities or flower nurseries.

  • Operators of establishments and organizers of events which are allowed to open their business as outlined above, must implement a protection concept to ensure that the risk of infection is minimized for:

- customers, visitors and participants; and

- the people working in the company or at the event.

  • The Federal Office of Public Health, in collaboration with SECO, shall specify the health and labour law requirements relating to the protection concepts. The businesses associations shall develop specific rough concepts of their line of business.

  • The competent cantonal authorities shall close individual institutions or prohibit individual events if there is no adequate protection concept or this is not observed

Reduction of restrictions as of 11 May 2020

On 29 April 2020, the Federal Council decided a further easing of measures effective as of 11 May 2020, 00:00 CET by adopting a second amendment to Art. 6 and 6a of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 (German, French, Italian). On 8 May 2020, the Federal Council adopted additional easing measures as of 11 May 2020 (German, French, Italian).

  • no longer closed are

- all remaining shops and markets

- museums and libraries and archives, with the exception of reading rooms

- restaurants and bars whereas the size of the guest group may not exceed four persons per table and consumption must take place while seated

  • Sport activities are permitted, including the use of the necessary sports facilities and operations if

- there is no body contact and not more than five people involved

- training and competitions on a professional level (without spectators)

  • all business, organizations and sport clubs providing above mentioned services and activities must implement protection concepts to minimize the risk of infections.

Reduction of restrictions as of 20 May 2020

  • For worship and other religious events (Link)

Reduction of restrictions as of 6 June 2020

On 27 June, the Federal Council adopted several amendments to the COVID-19 Ordinance which enter into force on 6 June 2020 (Link).

Allowed are (Art. 6 COVID-19 Ordinance:

  • Events with up to 300 people such as cinemas, concert halls and theatres

  • Private events like weddings

  • Sport events

  • Holiday camps

Events with over 1000 people are prohibited (Art 6 COVID-19 Ordinance).


x1.7a Open businesses, industries and allowed gatherings (previous measures)

Essential Services and Gatherings

Following essential services and gatherings are allowed (Art. 6 Para. 3 COVID-19 Ordinance 2):

a. grocery stores and other shops (e.g. kiosks, petrol station shops), insofar as they offer food or objects for daily use;

b. take-away establishments, company canteens, meal delivery services and catering establishments for hotel guests;

c. pharmacies, drugstores and shops for medical aids (e.g. glasses, hearing aids);

d. post offices and postal agencies;

e. sales outlets of telecommunications providers;

f. banks;

g. petrol stations;

h. railway stations and other public transport facilities;

i. workshops for means of transport;

j. public administration;

k. social institutions (e.g. contact points);

l. funerals within the close family circle;

m. health care facilities such as hospitals, clinics and doctors' practices as well as practices and facilities of health care professionals under federal and cantonal law;

n. hotels and accommodation establishments as well as pitches for caravans and mobile homes intended for permanent rental or for the travelling community.

The facilities and events mentioned above must comply with the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) regarding hygiene and social distance. The number of persons present must be limited accordingly, and crowds of people must be prevented.

As of 6 June 2020, the Federal Council eased restrictions and allowed

  • Discos, dance halls and nightclubs (total of 300 people per day);

  • Entertainment and leisure establishments such as cinemas, concert halls, theatres,

  • Casinos, sports centres, fitness centres, swimming pools, wellness centres, botanical and zoological gardens and animal parks;

  • Erotic establishments and offers of prostitution, including those on private premises

In case of contacts between persons who do not live in the same household, Article 6e COVID-19 Ordinance regarding the collection of contact details shall apply.

Supplying the population with food

Postal services may deliver food and goods for daily use 7 days a week. No restrictions apply in regards to Sunday work or delivery and transport on Sundays. Driving bans and other traffic restrictions like pedestrian areas do not apply to such postal services (Art. 7a COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

Construction sector and industry

Employers in the construction sector and in industry are obliged to comply with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)'s recommendations concerning hygiene and social distance. The number of persons present on construction sites or in companies must be limited accordingly, the organisation of construction sites and companies must be adapted, and the use of break rooms and canteens, in particular, must be restricted in an appropriate manner (Art. 7d COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

These orders have been limited until 19 April 2020. On 8 April 2020, the Federal Council prolonged the orders until 26 April 2020 for the time being. As of 27 April 2020, certain reductions are going to be effective as outlined above in section 1.6.

Exceptions for cantons in special risk situations

If the epidemiological situation in a canton poses a particular threat to the health of the population, the Federal Council may, upon reasoned request, authorize the Canton to order the restriction or cessation of the activity of certain economic sectors for a limited period and for certain regions (Art. 7e COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

Based on this article 7e COVID-19 Ordinance 2, the Federal Council authorized on 3 April 2020 the Canton of Ticino to uphold its wide lockdown until 13 April 2020 for the time being. On 8 April 2020, the Federal Council prolonged its authorization for the lockdown in Ticino until 19 April 2020 and on 16 April 2020 until 26 April 2020 (link). As the only Canton, Ticino closed private trade and production activities as well as construction sites.

x1.7b Contact tracing (previous measures)

In the context of opening most businesses and events, the Federal Council implemented obligations to collect contact data of people who get in close contact but do not live in the same household. Article 6e COVID-19 Ordinance (Link) stipulates following obligations:

In the case of close contacts, the protection concept concerning the collection of contact details shall provide for the following:

  • After the participants, participants, visitors have been informed accordingly, their first name, surname and telephone number (contact data) will be recorded.

These contact details must be used for identification and notification purposes of persons suspected of being infected and be forwarded to the cantonal office at their request.

  • The contact data may not be processed for any other purpose, must be kept for up to 14 days after participation in the event or visit to the facility or establishment and then immediately be destroyed, subject to the individuals' express consent to further processing of his data.

Close contact is deemed to be contact between persons where the

  • distance of less than two meters for more than fifteen minutes is observed

  • without protective measures such as wearing a face mask or a suitable barrier

x1.8 Shareholder's meetings and other meetings of companies (previous measures)

In the case of meetings of the owners of companies (e.g. shareholder), the organizer may order that the participants may exclusively exercise their rights, regardless of the expected number of participants and without observing the invitation deadline (Art. 6a COVID-19 Ordinance 2):

a. in writing or in electronic form; or

b. by an independent voting representative designated by the organizer.

The organizer shall take decisions during the period until 10 May 2020 (prolonged by the Federal Council 16 April 2020, before, it has been prolonged on 8 April 2020 to 26 April 2020 and before that, the period was set until 19 April 2020) At the moment, the measure is prolonged until 30 June 2020 (Link). The order must be notified in writing or published electronically at least four days before the event.

Pursuant to the Federal Office of Justice, the said rules apply besides to Aktiengesellschaften also to Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH), Kollektivgesellschaften, Kommanditgesellschaften, Genossenschaften and Vereine. The Federal Office of Justice released a FAQ which can be accessed via following external links:

German

French

Italian

x1.9a Supply of essential medical goods and medicinal products (previous measures)


The following measures were in force under the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 which was in effect until June 2022.


Medical Goods

Annex 4 to the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 includes a list of medicinal products, medical devices and protective equipment ("Essential Medical Goods") which are essential and urgently needed for the prevention and control of coronavirus (COVID-19).

For such Essential Medical Goods, special rules apply in regards to

  • reporting obligations of the Cantons, the hospitals and the manufacturers and distributors (Art. 4e COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • procurement (Art. 4f COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • allocation (Art. 4g COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • delivery and distribution (Art. 4h COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • distribution by the Federal Government on private market or through third parties against payment (Art. 4hbis COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • costs (Art. 4i COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • confiscation (Art. 4j COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • production (Art. 4k COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • exemptions regarding approval, import and permissions (Art. 4k to 4o COVID-19 Ordinance 2)


Special standards for certain face masks
Face masks for which no conformity assessment procedure in accordance with Article 10 MepV has been carried out may be placed on the market without an authorization in accordance with Art. 4n para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance 2 if

a. they are placed on the market exclusively for non-medical use; and

b. their functionality has been demonstrated by a Swiss testing laboratory accredited according to the European standard SN EN ISO/IEC 17025, 2005, "General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories".

Face masks placed on the market in accordance with these rules shall not are used in hospitals or doctors' surgeries for direct contact with patients (Art. 4n 3bis and 3ter COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

These rules entered into force on 29 April 2020 with retroactive effect to 24 April 2020 (II para 2 of the amendment dated 29 April 2020 to COVID-19 Ordinance 2).


Temporary suspension of customs duties for medical goods
The Federal Council reduced the customs duties for certain medical goods to CHF 0 per 100 KG. The tariff number of affected medical goods are listed in the annex to the Ordinance concerning the temporary suspension of customs duties for medical goods. Products linked to tariff numbers listed in this annex can be searched on the official website www.tares.ch.

This reduction of the customs duties entered into force on 10 April 2020, 00:00 CET and is limited until 9 October 2020 for the time being.


Restrictions of the sale of medicinal products (drugs)
Besides aforementioned provisions in the COVID-19 Ordinance 2, the Federal Council also adopted an Ordinance on the restriction of the sale of medicinal products to ensure the supply of the population with certain medications ("COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products").

Affected from this COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products are

  • all medically prescribed medicinal products in dispensing categories A and B pursuant to Articles 41 and 42 of the Medicinal Products Ordinance (Art. 1 letter a COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products);

  • Several medicinal products which may be sold without medical prescription and listed in Art. 1 letter b COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products.

Doctors, pharmacies and other businesses that are authorized to supply the medicinal products included in Article 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products may only supply customers with one package per purchase. They may supply chronically ill persons with such medicinal products per purchase only in the quantity prescribed by a doctor or to cover their needs for a maximum of two months (Art. 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products).

COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products entered into force on 18 March 2020 14:00 CET and is limited for six months (Art. 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Medical Products).

x1.10 Health care (previous measures)

Reporting obligation

Cantons must report capacities and workload to the Coordinated Medical Services CMS (Koordinierten Sanitätsdienst (KSD)(Art. 10 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

Treatment obligation

The Cantons can oblige private hospitals and clinics to make their capacities available for the admission of patients (Art. 10a para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

Hospitals and clinics, doctors' surgeries and dental surgeries, are prohibited from carrying out non-urgent medical examinations, treatments and therapies (Art. 10a para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

In particular, interventions which are not considered urgent are those which:

a. can be carried out at a later date without the person concerned suffering disadvantages that go beyond minor physical and psychological discomfort and impairments; or

b. serve predominantly or entirely aesthetic purposes, to increase performance or well-being.

In hospital wards, which are experiencing a massive increase in work as a result of COVID-19 diseases, the provisions of the Labour Code concerning working hours and rest periods are suspended for as long as the exceptional situation requires. Temporary or financial compensation must, however, continue to be granted. Employers remain responsible for protecting the health of their employees and must in particular ensure that they are granted adequate rest times (Art. 10a para 4 COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

According to the press release of the Federal Council dated 16 April 2020, restrictions on health treatments shall end as of 27 April 2020. Entry into force on 27 April 2020, 00:00 CET, the Federal Council adopted following easing of restrictions (German, French, Italian):

  • Cantons cannot oblige private hospitals and clinics anymore to make their capacities available for the admission of patients (cancellation of Art. 10a para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance 2)

  • Amendments to Art. 10a para 2 to 4 COVID-19 Ordinance:

    • The cantons shall ensure that sufficient capacity (namely beds and specialist staff) is available in hospitals and clinics in the inpatient sector for COVID-19 patients and for other medically urgently indicated examinations and treatments, particularly in the intensive care and general internal medicine departments.

    • For this purpose, Cantons may oblige hospitals and clinics to:

a. make their capacities available in the inpatient sector or to keep them available on call; and

b. to restrict or discontinue any investigations and treatments that are not medically indicated as urgent.

    • Hospitals and clinics must ensure that the supply of medicinal products for COVID-19 patients in the outpatient and inpatient sectors is guaranteed.

x1.11 Persons with a higher risk (previous measures)

PRINCIPLE

Particularly vulnerable people should stay at home and avoid crowds. When they leave the house, they shall take special precautions to comply with the Federal Office of Public Health's recommendations concerning hygiene and social distance (Art. 10b COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

"Particularly vulnerable people" are persons over 65 years of age and persons who have the following illnesses (Annex 6 to the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 includes more specific criteria):

  • high blood pressure

  • diabetes

  • cardiovascular diseases

  • chronic respiratory diseases

  • diseases and therapies which weaken the immune system

  • cancer

OBLIGATIONS OF EMPLOYERS

The following measures in "[ ...]" have been in place until 16 April 2020, 24:00 CET.

[Employers have an obligation to allow workers who are particularly vulnerable to carry out their work duties from home. Employers shall take the appropriate organisational and technical measures (Art. 10c COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

If, due to the nature of the work or for lack of feasible measures, work activities can only be carried out at the usual place of work, employers are obliged to take appropriate organisational and technical measures to ensure compliance with the federal recommendations on hygiene and social distance.

If it is not possible for particularly vulnerable employees to carry out their work obligations within the scope of the above mentioned obligations, the employer must grant leave with continued payment of wages.

Employees must assert their particular vulnerability by means of a personal declaration. The employer may require a medical certificate.]

As of 17 April 2020, 00:00 CET, the Federal Council amended Art. 10c COVID-19 Ordinance 2 (German, French, Italian) as follows:

The employer enables his particularly vulnerable workers to carry out their work obligations from home. Therefore, the employer shall take the appropriate organisational and technical measures.

If it is not possible to fulfill the employee's hitherto existing work obligations from home, the employer shall, in derogation from the employment contract and for the same remuneration, assign the employee concerned an equivalent substitute work which can be carried out from home. Therefore, the employer shall take the appropriate organisational and technical measures.

If, for operational reasons, the presence of particularly vulnerable employees on site is wholly or partly indispensable, they may be employed on site in their hitherto existing occupation if the following conditions are met:

a. The workplace is designed in such a way as to preclude any close contact with other persons, in particular by providing an individual room or a clearly assigned working area, taking into account the minimum distance of 2 meters.

b. In cases where close personal contact cannot be avoided at all times, appropriate protective measures are taken in accordance with the STOP principle (substitution, technical measures, organisational measures, personal protective equipment).

If it is not possible to employ the employees concerned in accordance with the above mentioned measures, the employer shall, by way of derogation from the employment contract and for the same remuneration, assign them equivalent substitute work on site for which the requirements in accordance with letters a and b are met.

Before taking the measures envisaged, the employer shall consult the employees concerned.

The employee concerned may refuse to take on work assigned to him or her if the employer does not meet the requirements mentioned above or, if despite the measures taken by the employer the employee considers the risk of infection with Coronavirus to be too high for him or her for special reasons. The employer may demand a medical certificate.

If it is not possible to employ the employees concerned in accordance with the above mentioned requirements, or if they refuse the assigned work in terms set out above, the employer shall release them from work with continued payment of their salary.

Employees shall assert their particular vulnerability by means of a personal declaration. The employer may demand a medical certificate.

x1.12 Sanctions (previous measures)

Sanctions under the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 eased parallel to the easing of measure to combat with the spreading coronavirus. For reference purposes, the old sanctioning regime is included below in italic letters.

As per 15 June 2020, the following sections have been revoked: 10f para 2 letter c and d, para 3 letter b and c as well as 5 (Link). Hence, following sanctions effective as per 15 June 2020 are in force under Art. 10f COVID-19 Ordinance 2:

Unless a more serious criminal offence under the Criminal Code is committed, anyone who deliberately commits one or several of following offences shall be punished by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine:

  • a. organizing or performing an event prohibited under Article 6;

  • b. as the organizer or responsible person, does not comply with or implement the requirements for holding events in accordance with Article 6 paragraphs 3-5;

  • e. organizes or carries out activities in the field of sport that are prohibited under Article 6c;

  • f. as organizer or responsible person, does not comply with or implement the requirements for permitted activities in the area of sport pursuant to Article 6c

A fine shall be imposed on anyone who:

  • a. violates the prohibition of gatherings of people in public places in accordance with Article 7c paragraph 1;

  • b. exports protective equipment or essential medical supplies without the authorization required under Article 4b paragraph 1;

  • c. infringes restrictions on the cross-border movement of persons and goods at border crossings in accordance with Article 4 paragraph 4;

  • d. infringes the ban on shopping tourism in accordance with Article 3d.

The following offenses may be punished by an administrative fine of CHF 100 in proceedings under the Administrative Fines Act of 18 March 2016:

  • a. Infringements of the ban on public gatherings in accordance with Article 7c paragraph 1;


Old sanctioning regime until 6 June 2020

As per 6 June 2020, Art. 10f COVID-19 Ordinance 2 reads:

Unless a more serious criminal offence under the Criminal Code is committed, anyone who deliberately commits one or several of following offences shall be punished by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine:

  • a. organizing or performing an event prohibited under Article 6;

  • b. as the organizer or responsible person, does not comply with or implement the requirements for holding events in accordance with Article 6 paragraphs 3-5;

  • c. as the responsible person of a publicly accessible facility or establishment, does not comply with or implements the requirements pursuant to Article 6a;

  • d. as the organizer or responsible person, does not comply with or implements the requirements for the organization of demonstrations or collections of signatures in accordance with Article 6b;

  • e. organizes or carries out activities in the field of sport that are prohibited under Article 6c;

  • f. as organizer or responsible person, does not comply with or implement the requirements for permitted activities in the area of sport pursuant to Article 6c

A fine shall be imposed on anyone who:

  • a. violates the prohibition of gatherings of people in public places in accordance with Article 7c paragraph 1;

  • b. exports protective equipment or essential medical supplies without the authorization required under Article 4b paragraph 1;

  • c. infringes restrictions on the cross-border movement of persons and goods at border crossings in accordance with Article 4 paragraph 4;

  • d. infringes the ban on shopping tourism in accordance with Article 3d.

The following offenses may be punished by an administrative fine of CHF 100 in proceedings under the Administrative Fines Act of 18 March 2016:

  • a. Infringements of the ban on public gatherings in accordance with Article 7c paragraph 1;

  • b. violations of restrictions on the cross-border movement of persons and goods at border crossings in accordance with Article 4 paragraph 4;

  • c. violations of the ban on shopping tourism in accordance with Article 3d.

Before 6 June 2020, 6 June 2020, Art. 10f COVID-19 Ordinance 2 stated:

Provided that there is no more serious offence under the Criminal Code, anyone who deliberately resists measures under Article 6 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2 (lockdown) shall be punished by imprisonment for up to three years or a fine (Art. 10f COVID-19 Ordinance 2).

A fine shall be imposed on anyone who

a. violates the ban on gatherings in public places in accordance with Article 7c of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2;

b. exports protective equipment or important medical goods without the authorization required in accordance with Article 4b para 1 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2;

c. infringes restrictions on the international movement of persons at border crossings in accordance with Article 4 para 4 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2.

d. infringes the ban on shopping tourism in accordance with Article 3a.

The following offences may be punished with an administrative fine of CHF 100 (around USD 100) in proceedings under the Administrative Fines Act:

a. violations of the prohibition of gatherings of people in public places in accordance with Article 7c of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2;

b. violations of restrictions on cross-border passenger traffic at border crossings in accordance with Article 4 paragraph 4 of the COVID-19 Ordinance 2.

c. violations of the ban on shopping tourism in accordance with Article 3a.

2. SUPPORT OF BUSINESSES

2.1 Legal basis

Based on its legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted the Ordinance on the Granting of Credits and Joint and Several Sureties in Consequence of Coronavirus ("COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties"). On 3 March 2020, the Federal Council increased the volume of liquidity assistance guarantees from 20 to 40 billion Swiss Francs (around USD 20 to 40 bn (link).

The COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties is only available in the official languages German, French and Italian. A current version can be accessed via the following links:

German

Italian

French

The COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties is limited until 26 September 2020 for the time being (Art. 25 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

2.2 Purpose and scope of support measures

Purpose

The purpose of the measures is to address the issue of liquidity assistance for small and medium sized enterprises ("SME") by providing unbureaucratic and fast access to credit facilities to bridge liquidity shortfalls caused by the coronavirus pandemic. SME must apply for credit facilities at a Swiss bank or PostFinance AG but the credits are secured by the Confederation (Link to the press release of the Federal Council).

Scope

The credit facilities are provided to sole proprietorship, partnerships or legal entities domiciled in Switzerland with turnover in 2019 of less then 500 million Swiss Francs (around USD 500 m) (Art. 3 para 1 and Art. 6 para 2 lit. a COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Two types of credit facilities are available:

  • COVID-19 Credit up to 500,000 Swiss Francs (around USD 500,000)

  • COVID-19 Credit Plus from 500,000 to 20 million Swiss Francs (around USD 20 m)

2.3 COVID-19 Credit

Credit facility

Loans of up to CHF 500,000 (around USD 500,000) are paid out within a short period of time (usually several hours) and are 100 % secured by the federal government.

The loan can amount to a maximum of 10 % of the applicant's turnover in 2019; if the final annual accounts for 2019 are not available (e.g. for a startup company), the provisional version or, if this is also missing, the turnover for 2018 is relevant. In the case of the commencement of business activities on 1 January 2020 or later, or in the case of a financial year that is longer than the financial year in which the company was established in 2019, the revenue shall be deemed to be three times the net salary for a financial year, but with a minimum of 100,000 Swiss Francs and a maximum of 500,000 Swiss Francs (around USD 100,000 to max USD 500,000) (Art. 7 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

The interest rate on these bridging loans is currently 0 %. The Federal Department of Finance may adjust the interest rate later in accordance with the development of the financial market, for the first time on 31 March 2021 (Art. 13 para 3 lit. a and para 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Loans are provided for a duration of five years and must be amortized within that time (Art. 5 and 13 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties). If the timely amortization means considerable hardship (erhebliche Härte) for the borrower, the term may be extended by the participating bank once for two years with the consent of the relevant guarantee organisation (Art. 13 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Who can apply

Applicants must be sole proprietorship, partnerships or legal entities domiciled in Switzerland and declare that they

a. were founded before 1 March 2020

b. are not in bankruptcy or composition proceedings or in liquidation at the time the application is submitted;

c. are economically significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular with regard to their turnover; and

d. have not already received liquidity guarantees based on the emergency legal regulations in the areas of sports or culture at the time of submitting their application. (Art. 3 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Restrictions

The provided loans may not be used by the borrower to make new investments in fixed assets that are not replacement investments (Art. 6 para 2 lit. b COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Also excluded for the duration of the loan are pursuant to Art. 6 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties:

a. the distribution of dividends and royalties and the reimbursement of capital contributions;

b. the granting of loans on assets or the refinancing of personal and shareholder loans in the form of loans on assets, with the exception of the refinancing of overdrafts accumulated since 23 March 2020 at the bank granting the loan guaranteed under the COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties;

c. the repayment of group loans; and

d. the transfer of credit funds secured by a joint and several guarantee under the COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties to a group company directly or indirectly affiliated with the applicant which is not domiciled in Switzerland.

How to apply

  1. Credit application can be started via the link on the official website (German, French, Italien).

  2. The agreement must be signed.

  3. A scan of the agreement must be send to the bank or PostFinance AG by e-mail or by mail.

  4. The bank or PostFinance AG will check the agreement. If it is complete, the bank or PostFinance AG will pay the money directly to the applicant.

A list of participating banks is available on the above mentioned website (German, French, Italien).

Timing

Credit applications can be submitted until 31 July 2020 (Art. 11 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

2.4 COVID-19 Credit Plus

Credit facility

In addition to COVID-19 Credit of CHF 500,000 (around USD 500,000), SME can apply for a COVID-19 Credit Plus from CHF 500,000 up to CHF 20 m (around USD 20 m) (Art. 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Loans of up to CHF 20 m (around USD 20 m) are paid out within a short period of time (usually few days) and are to 85 % secured by the federal government. Banks must bear 15 % of the credit risk.

The interest rate on these bridging loans is currently 0.5 % p.a. for the amount secured by the federal government (85 % of the loan). For the amount secured by the bank, the interest rate must be individually agreed with the bank (Art. 13 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

The Federal Department of Finance may adjust the interest rate of 0.5 % p.a. on the COVID-19 Credit Plus later in accordance with the development of the financial market, for the first time on 31 March 2021 (Art. 13 para 3 lit. b and para 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Similar to the COVID-19 Credit, the COVID-19 Credit Plus loans can only amount to a maximum of 10 % of the applicant's turnover in 2019; if the final annual accounts for 2019 are not available, the provisional version or, if this is also missing, the turnover for 2018 is relevant (Art. 7 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Also the COVID-19 Credit Plus loans are provided for a duration of five years and must be amortized within that time (Art. 5 and 13 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties). If the timely amortization means considerable hardship (erhebliche Härte) for the borrower, the term may be extended by the participating bank once for two years with the consent of the relevant guarantee organisation (Art. 13 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Who can apply

For COVID-19 Credit Plus loans, applicants must fulfill the same conditions as for a COVID-19 Credit:

  • Sole proprietorship, partnerships or legal entities domiciled in Switzerland must declare that they

a. were founded before 1 March 2020

b. are not in bankruptcy or composition proceedings or in liquidation at the time the application is submitted;

c. are economically significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular with regard to their turnover; and

d. have not already received liquidity guarantees based on the emergency legal regulations in the areas of sports or culture at the time of application submission. (Art. 3 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

  • In addition, COVID-19 Credit Plus applicants must also:

a. have a company identification number (UID number); and

b. receive a positive credit decision from the applicant's bank which applied a credit assessment customary in the sector (Art. 4 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

Restrictions

Same restrictions apply for the COVID-19 Credit Plus as for the COVID-19 Credit (Art. 6 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

How to apply

Firstly, a COVID-19 Credit agreement must be submitted before the submission of an application for a COVID-19 Credit Plus exceeding CHF 500,000 (around USD 500,000) can be considered. Afterwards, steps are as follows

  1. Credit application can be started via the link on the official website (German, French, Italien).

  2. The agreement must be signed.

  3. A scan of the agreement must be send to the bank by e-mail or by mail.

  4. The bank will check the agreement. If it is complete, the bank will sign a credit agreement with the applicant and pay the money directly to the applicant.

A list of participating banks is available on the above mentioned website (German, French, Italien).

Timing

Credit applications can be submitted until 31 July 2020 (Art. 11 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

2.4a COVID-19 Credit Startup Companies

On 4 May 2020, the Federal Council released details of liquidity support measures specifically for startup companies founded after 1 January 2010 but before 1 March 2020. Details of these support measures are available in English via following Link (media release of Federal Council dated 4 May 2020).

2.5 Sanctions

Given there is no more serious offence under the Criminal Code, a fine of up to CHF 100,000 (USD 100,000) can be imposed on anyone who wilfully obtains a credit under the COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties by making false statements or uses the credit funds by way of derogation from Article 6, meaning for

a. the distribution of dividends and bonuses and the reimbursement of capital contributions;

b. the granting of loans on the assets side or the refinancing of personal and shareholder loans in the form of loans on the assets side, with the exception of the refinancing of overdrafts accumulated since 23 March 2020 with the bank which grants the loan guaranteed under the COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties;

c. the repayment of group loans; and

d. the transfer of credit funds secured by a joint and several guarantee under the COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties to a group company directly or indirectly affiliated with the applicant which is not domiciled in Switzerland.

(Art. 23 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties).

On 16 March 2020, the Federal Council inserted Art. 18a COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties. Pursuant to Art. 18a, the corporate bodies and all persons involved in the management or liquidation of the borrower are personally and jointly for the damage if a credit is used for a purpose prohibited under Article 6. This liability shall be applicable on damage towards creditors of the company, the lending bank, the guarantee organisation and the Federal Government.

2.6 Capital loss and overindebtedness (COVID-19 Credit)

Notification Obligations

Pursuant to Art. 725 para 1 and 2 Code of Obligations, the following notification obligations must be observed by Aktiengesellschaften and Gesellschaften mit beschränkter Haftung GmbH (Art. 820 Code of Obligations).

  • If the last annual balance sheet shows that half of the share capital and legal reserves are no longer covered, the Board of Directors must immediately convene a general meeting and propose restructuring measures.

  • If there are reasonable grounds for concern that the company is over indebted, an interim balance sheet must be prepared and submitted to an approved auditor for examination. If the interim balance sheet shows that the claims of the company's creditors are not covered either at the going-concern value nor at the sale value, the Board of Directors must notify the judge unless the company's creditors rank behind all other company creditors to the extent of the under- funding.

Relevance of COVID-19 Credit loans

COVID-19 Credit loans which are fully secured by the federal government shall not be taken into account as borrowed capital in the meaning of Art. 725 para 1 and 2 Code of Obligations until 31 March 2022 (Art. 24 COVID-19 Ordinance Joint Sureties). This exemption does not apply to COVID-19 Credit Plus loans.

2.7 Deactivation of countercyclical capital buffer of banks

Counter-cyclical capital buffer of banks

Pursuant to Annex 7 to the Ordinance on the Capital Adequacy and Risk Diversification of Banks (German, French, Italian), the Swiss banks are required to hold a counter-cyclical buffer in the form of core equity (hartem Kernkapital) on directly and indirectly mortgage-backed credit exposures relating to residential real estate located within Switzerland. This buffer was set to be 2 % of the risk-weighted credit positions.

Temporary deactivation of counter-cyclical capital buffer

As a measure to provide banks with more flexibility in granting credits designed to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Council deactivated the counter-cyclical capital buffer with effect as of 28 March 2020 00:00 CET (see amendment to the Ordinance on the Capital Adequacy and Risk Diversification of Banks dated 27 March 2020 in German, French, Italian). See also the press release of the Federal Council dated 27 March 2020 accessible via the following link.

2.8 Financial support of childcare

On 20 May 2020, the Federal Council adopted the Ordinance on mitigating the economic impact of measures to combat coronavirus on institutional childcare (Link). Pursuant to Art 4, the the cantons shall grant the institutions of childcare on request compensation in the form of financial assistance for the parents' lost childcare contributions in the period from 17 March 2020 to 17 June 2020.

2.8 Financial support of media

Print Media

The Federal Council adopted on 20 May 2020 the Ordinance on transitional measures in support of the print media in relation to the coronavirus (Link). Pursuant to Article 3, the Federal Government supports print media with the amount of total CHF 17.5 Mio (around USD 17.5 Mio).

This financial support is only granted if the media concerned gives a written undertaking to the Federal Office of Communications (BAKOM) not to pay a dividend for the 2020 financial year (Article 3 para 3).

Electronic Media

In addition, the Federal Council adopted on 20 May 2020 the Ordinance on transitional measures in support of electronic media in connection with the coronavirus (Link). Article 4 provides a support of total CHF 30 Mio (around USD 30 Mio). Supported are licensed radio and tv stations as well as certain regional tv stations (Article 2).

2.9 Financial support of wine industry

In order to mitigate negative effects of coronavirus on wine industry, the Federal Council adopted an Ordinance, which provides financial support for businesses which will undertake the declassification of AOC-wine to table wine (Tafelwein) (Link).

2.10 Relief in environmental law

On 5 June 2020, the Federal Council adopted an Ordinance on certain relief in environmental law in relation to the coronavirus (Link). The ordinance includes measures with regard to:

  • Extension of the deadline for the submission of the final statement of account for the exemption from the federal sewage tax (Abwasserabgabe)

  • Exemption from the VOC control tax on disinfectants

  • Refund of the VOC steering tax

  • Steam pressure for motor gasoline

  • Extension of time limit for the use of thermal paper containing bisphenols

All orders are limited in time (Art. 7).

3. SUPPORT OF THE JOB MARKET

3.1 Legal basis

Based on its legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted several ordinances to support the job market and relieve companies:

  1. Ordinance on unemployment insurance measures in connection with the coronavirus ("COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance") regarding short-time working compensation; available in the official languages via the following links: German, French, Italian.

  2. Ordinance on measures in the event of loss of earnings in connection with the coronavirus ("COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings"); available in the official languages via the following links: German, French, Italian.

  3. Ordinance on measures in connection with coronavirus relating to the obligation to notify the authorities about jobs ("COVID-19 Ordinance Job Notifications"); available in the official languages via the following links: German, French, Italian. This measure has been revoked as per 8 June 2020 (Link).

In addition, ordinances have been adopted by the Federal Council to address specific issues regarding social security contributions:

  1. Ordinance on measures relating to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) for short-time work compensation and for the settlement of social security contributions; available in the official languages via the following links: German, French, Italian.

  2. Ordinance on the use of employer contribution reserves for the payment of employee contributions to the occupational pension scheme in connection with coronavirus ("COVID-Ordinance Pension Scheme"); available in the official languages via the following links: German, French, Italian.

Furthermore, the Federal Council adopted on 16 April 2020 an Ordinance on the implementation of the qualification procedures of professional qualifications in 2020 in connection with coronavirus; available in the official languages via the following links: German, French, Italian.

3.2 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance (Short-Time Working Compensation)

Short-time working compensation (Kurzarbeitsentschädigung)

Swiss unemployment law provides also in non-pandemic situations an instrument named short-time working compensation (Kurzarbeitsentschädigung). With this instrument, the unemployment insurance covers part of the wage costs of employers affected by short-time work for a certain period of time. The purpose is to prevent termination of permanent employment contracts in situations of temporary lack of work.

Unlike usual unemployment compensation, payments are made from the unemployment insurance to the employer. Employees are then paid by the employer. Short-time working compensation has negative effects for the employees (in particular lower salary in the amount of 80 %). Employees have the right to refuse short-time work compensation. The employer must continue to pay the full salary to these employees. However, the employee may then be more likely to loose the job.

The Swiss government provides more information on short-time working compensation in English on its website which can be accessed via the following link.

Modification on short-time working compensation due to COVID-19

In order to minimize negativ effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Council adopted the COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance and implemented inter alia following modifications on the instrument of short-time working compensation:

  • Spouses of or individuals in registered partnership with the employer who are working for the employer are entitled to short-time working compensation (Art. 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance) in the amount of 3320 Swiss Francs (around USD 3320) per month for a full-time position (Art. 5 letter a COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

This support has been cancelled as of 1 June 2020 (Link).

  • Individuals who are shareholders or partners of the business, have a financial interest in the business or have in their role as members of a highest decision-making body of the business the capacity to determine or can significantly influence the decisions of the employer, are entitled to short-time work compensation. Besides these individuals, also their spouses or individuals in registered partnership are entitled to short-time working compensation (Art. 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance). The amount of short-time working compensation is 3320 Swiss Francs (around USD 3320) per month for a full-time position (Art. 5 letter b COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

This support has been cancelled as of 1 June 2020 (Link).

  • No waiting period (Karenzfrist) is deducted from the relevant short-time working period (Art. 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

  • Short-time working compensation may also be paid to workers who are employed for a fixed period, in an apprenticeship or in the service of an organisation for temporary work (Art. 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

  • In order to allow employers to pay the employees' wages on the regular payday, employers can request the payment of short-time work compensation from the unemployment insurance without having to advance it (Art. 6 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

  • The employer does not have to wait for the pre-registration period (Voranmeldefrist) if he intends to claim short-time work compensation for his employees (Art. 8b para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

This measure has been cancelled as of 1 June 2020 (Link).

  • Short-time work can also be requested in advance by telephone. The employer must immediately confirm the advance notification by telephone in writing (Art. 8b para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

This measure has been cancelled as of 1 June 2020 (Link).

  • Employees on call, whose level of employment is subject to strong fluctuations (more than 20 %), are also entitled to short-time work compensation if they have been working for more than 6 months in the company registering short-time work (Art. 8f COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

  • If employees are able to earn income during the short-work period through interim employment or self-employment, such income must not be reported to the employer (Art. 8h COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

  • During the time COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance is in force, the creditable loss of earnings shall be calculated in a summary procedure and the short-time working compensation of 80 % shall be paid as a lump sum (Art. 8i para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

The measures under the COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance, including amendments, apply retroactively from 1 March 2020 until 31 August 2020 (Art. 9 COVID-19 Ordinance Unemployment Insurance).

3.3 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings

Persons entitled to compensation
Pursuant to Art. 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings, following persons are entitled to compensation:

  • Individuals as well as parents with children up to the age of 12 are entitled to claim compensation, provided they meet the following requirements:

a. They must stop their work due to official measures in accordance with Articles 35 and 40 of the Federal Act on the Control of Communicable Human Diseases in connection with the corona epidemic (COVID-19):

1. as a result of the loss of third-party care for their children;

or

2. due to quarantine.

b. At the time of the stop of their work they are:

1. employees within the meaning of Article 10 Federal Act on the General Part of Social Insurance Law ("ATSG");

or

2. self-employed persons within the meaning of Article 12 ATSG.

c. They are compulsorily insured within the meaning of the Federal law on old-age and survivors' insurance.

  • Self-employed persons within the meaning of Article 12 ATSG who suffer loss of earnings as a result of a measure in accordance with Article 6 para 1 and 2 of COVID-19 Ordinance 2.

  • Self-employed persons within the meaning of Article 12 ATSG who are not covered by the above-mentioned criteria are entitled to benefits if they suffer a loss of earnings due to the Federal Council's measures to combat coronavirus and their income for 2019, which is decisive for determining the AHV contributions, is between CHF 10,000 and CHF 90,000 (around USD 10,000 and USD 90,000).

Start and end of compensation claim
For persons with care responsibilities, entitlement shall arise on the 4th day after the conditions laid down in Article 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings are met (Art. 3 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

For persons in quarantine and persons entitled to benefits in accordance with Article 2 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings, entitlement arises when all the conditions in accordance with Article 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings are fulfilled (Art. 3 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Entitlement ends when the measures in accordance with Articles 7, 35 and 40 Federal Act on the Control of Communicable Human Diseases are stopped (Art. 3 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings). For persons entitled under Article 2 para 2 and 3bis, it shall end as follows:

  • a. for persons entitled under Article 2 para 3bis: on 16 May 2020;

  • b. for persons entitled under Article 2 para 3: on 16 May 2020, provided that they have been authorized to resume their activities

Amount and calculation of compensation
The daily allowance is 80 % of the average income earned before entitlement to the compensation begins (Art. 5 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

For the calculation of income, Article 11 para 1 of the Federal law on income compensation for military service and maternity applies mutatis mutandis (Art. 5 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings). Pursuant to Article 11 para 1 of the Federal law on income compensation for military service and maternity, the basis for determining the average pre-employment income is the income on which the contributions under the Federal law on old-age and survivors' insurance are levied.

General restrictions and limitations
The maximum compensation is CHF 196 (around USD 200) per day (Art. 5 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

For self-employed persons in accordance with Article 2 para 1bis letter a (COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings), a maximum of 30 daily allowances is paid (Art. 3 para 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

A maximum of 10 daily allowances shall be paid for persons in quarantine (Art. 3 para 5 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

The compensation is subsidiary to all benefits paid by social security and insurance companies under the Insurance Contract Act and to continued salary payments by employers (Art. 2 para 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

If the person entitled to the allowance is entitled to the allowance on the basis of various measures under the Federal Act on the Control of Communicable Human Diseases, only one daily allowance shall be paid (Art. 2 para 8 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Any entitlement to compensation not received shall lapse five years after the measures have been repealed (Art. 6 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Further restrictions and limitations on compensation paid to parents
Foster parents are entitled to compensation if they have taken the foster child into permanent care and education free of charge (Art. 2 para 7 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Third-party care may include nursery schools, day nurseries, schools and caring individuals if they are particularly at risk from the corona epidemic within the meaning of COVID-19 Ordinance 2 (Art. 2 para 5 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Both parents may be entitled to benefits due to the loss of third-party care. However, only one daily allowance may be claimed per day of employment (Art. 2 para 6 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Parents who have to interrupt their gainful employment to look after their child have no entitlement during school holidays (Art. 2 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Person who can claim the compensation, calculation and payment
The compensation shall be claimed by the beneficiaries itself (Art. 7 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

The compensation is paid to the person entitled to it (Art. 8 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Payment is made monthly in arrears (Art. 8 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

The AHV Compensation Office that was responsible for the payment of AHV contributions prior to the claim for compensation is responsible for determining and paying the compensation (Art. 8 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

Social security contributions must be paid as follows for the granted compensation (Art. 9 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings):

a. to the old-age and survivors' insurance;

b. to the disability insurance scheme;

c. the income compensation scheme;

d. the unemployment insurance scheme, if applicable.

Half of the contributions are to be borne by the persons entitled to the compensation and half by the Confederation.

Further provisions
The provisions of the Federal Act on the General Part of Social Insurance Law (ATSG) shall apply to compensation under the COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings, unless its provisions expressly provide for a derogation from the ATSG (Art. 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings).

The COVID-19 Ordinance Earnings entered into force on 17 March 2020 and is limited until 16 September 2020 for the time being.

3.4 COVID-19 Ordinance Job Notifications

This measure has been revoked as per 8 June 2020 (Link).

Job Notifications

Pursuant to Art. 21a para 1 of the Federal Act on Foreign Nationals and Integration ("FNIA"), the Federal Council defines measures to exploit the domestic labor market potential.

In the event of above-average unemployment in certain professions, areas of employment or economic regions, temporary measures may be taken to assist persons who are registered with public employment agencies as seeking employment. The measures may be restricted to specific economic regions (Art. 21a para 2 FNIA).

In the professions, areas of employment or economic regions with an above-average level of unemployment, employers must notify the public employment agencies of vacant positions. Access to information about the notified vacancies must be restricted for a limited period to persons registered with public employment agencies in Switzerland (Art. 21a para 2 FNIA).

Modifications on job notifications due to COVID-19

The Federal Council modified the system of job notifications with the COVID-19 Ordinance Job Notifications as follows:

  • No temporary measures are to be taken to assist persons registered with the public employment service as seeking employment (Art. 1 COVID-10 Ordinance Job Notifications).

  • Vacancies in the occupational groups, sectors of activity or economic regions with above-average unemployment must not be reported by the employer to the public employment service. Access to the information on registered jobs is not limited for a limited period of time to persons registered with the public employment service in Switzerland (Art. 2 COVID-10 Ordinance Job Notifications).

  • The public employment service must not send employers suitable dossiers of registered job seekers within a short period of time and the employer does not have to invite suitable candidates for an interview or a suitability test. The results do not have to be reported to the public employment service (Art. 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Job Notifications).

Duration

The COVID-19 Ordinance Job Notifications entered into force on 26 March 2020 and is limited until 26 September 2020 for the time being (Art. 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Job Notifications).

4. SUPPORT OF THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR; FOOD SUPPLY

Support measures

Legal basis

The Federal Council adopted for the time being following ordinances related to COVID-19

Purpose

The Federal Council adopted several measures with the aforementioned ordinances on 1 April 2020 to ensure food supply and to prevent a collapse in prices on the markets with consequences for the entire value chain (see also the press release of the Federal Council). On 16 April 2020, the Federal Council additionally adopted an amendment to the Ordinance on Food and Utility Articles.

Measures

Adopted measures include:

  • The Federal Council authorized the Federal Office for Agriculture to raise the tariff quota (Zollkontingent) on certain products (namely eggs, butter, meat, potatoes).

  • Temporary easing of controls on imported food.

  • Financial support in order to storage high quality meat which cannot be used by restaurants due to the lockdown.

  • Simplification of declaration requirements for food (Amendment of Art. 12 para 1bis and para 1ter to the Ordinance on Food and Utility Articles)

5. FINANCIAL SUPPORT OF THE CULTURAL SECTOR AND SPORT

5.1 Legal basis

Cultural Sector

Based on the legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted the Ordinance on Mitigating the Economic Impact of the Coronavirus in the Culture Sector ("COVID-19 Ordinance Culture"). On 20 March 2020, the Federal Council limited the amount to 280 Mio. Swiss Francs (around USD 280 mio) (Link).

The COVID-19 Ordinance Culture is only available in the official languages German, French and Italian. A current version can be accessed via the following links:

German

Italian

French

The COVID-19 Ordinance Culture has been limited until 21 May 2020 but has been prolonged on 13 May 2020 until 20 September 2020 or the time being (Art. 12 COVID-19 Ordinance Culture).

Sport

With the purpose to support sport organisations on a grassroots and professional level which are affected by measures taken by the government to combat coronavirus, the Federal Council adopted an Ordinance on Measures in the Field of Sport to mitigate the Consequences of federal Measures on the Control of Coronavirus. Said ordinance is available via the following links:

German

Italian

French

Support may be provided as interest-free loans to organisations on a professional level and à fonds perdu payment to organisations on a grassroot level.

5.2 Scope of support measures

Scope

The COVID-19 Ordinance Culture provides for the following support measures (Art. 3 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Culture):

a. Emergency aid for cultural enterprises and cultural workers;

b. compensation for cultural enterprises and cultural workers;

c. Support for cultural associations in the lay sector.

There is no legal entitlement to benefits under the COVID-19 Ordinance Culture (Art. 3 para 2).

Definitions (Art. 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Culture)

  • Cultural Sector: the performing arts, design, film, visual arts, literature, music and museums

  • Event: a cultural event of limited duration, taking place and planned in a defined space or perimeter, in which several people participate;

  • Cultural enterprise: a legal entity active in the cultural sector, excluding governmental administrative units and public bodies;

  • Cultural workers: natural persons who are self-employed and who work full-time in the cultural sector and who are resident in Switzerland;

  • Lay cultural association: association of non-professional cultural workers in the fields of music and theater.

5.3 Emergency aid for cultural enterprises

(Art. 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Culture)

Cultural enterprises will be granted interest-free loans repayable on application to ensure their liquidity, provided that this liquidity is threatened by government measures to combat coronavirus (COVID-19).

Profit-making cultural enterprises are excluded from such.

The loans will amount to a maximum of 30 per cent of the earnings of the cultural enterprise according to the most recent audited annual financial statements.

The Cantons will handle requests.

5.4 Loss compensation

(Art. 8 COVID-19 Ordinance Culture)

On application, cultural enterprises and creative artists may receive financial support for the financial loss associated in particular with the cancellation or postponement of events and projects or with the closure of establishments, provided that this was caused by government measures to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19).

The compensation for loss of earnings shall cover a maximum of 80 % of the financial loss.

Emergency aid to cultural enterprises and cultural workers shall be paid to compensation for loss of earnings.

Any loss of profit will not be compensated.

The Cantons will handle applications.

5.5 Support for organisations

(Art. 10 COVID-19 Ordinance Culture)

On application, cultural associations in the amateur's sphere shall receive financial assistance for the financial loss associated with the cancellation or postponement of events.

Applications must be submitted to the associations supported by the Confederation in accordance with the provisions of the Federal Department of Home Affairs.

Compensation shall amount to a maximum of 10,000 Swiss Francs per cultural association in the amateur sector, depending on the number of active members represented.

6. DIGITAL SIGNATURE OF DOCUMENTS

Temporary facilitation of identification procedure

Digital signatures

Digital signatures allow the authentication of a message or document. The law recognizes in certain circumstances digital signatures as equivalent to handwritten signatures. Such digital signatures are based on a certification structure which is managed by accredited certification services providers (for more details, see the website of the BAKOM).

An individual requesting a digital signature must be identified by a certification service provider. Normally the individual is identified by visiting the certification services provider in person.

Facilitated identification procedure to obtain a digital signature

In order to minimize travel and personal contacts, the Federal Council temporarily facilitated the identification procedure by allowing certification services provider to identify individuals by means of video identification (Art. 7a Amendment to the Ordinance on Certification Services dated 1 April 2020: available in German, French, Italian).

This facilitation entered into force on 2 April 2020 0:00 CET and is valid until 2 October 2020 for the time being (Sec. II of the Amendment).

Afterwards, digital signatures provided based on the facilitated identification procedure cannot longer be used to validly sign documents. However, documents which have been signed during this period using digital signatures obtained through the the facilitated identification procedure remain validly signed. Only the digital signature may not be used to sign new documents afterwards (see also the press release of the Federal Council).

7. TENANCY (MIETE) AND LEASE (PACHT)

7.1 Legal basis

Based on the legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted the Ordinance on Mitigating the Effects of Coronavirus in Tenancy and Leasing ("COVID-19 Ordinance Tenancy").

The COVID-19 Ordinance Tenancy is available in the official languages German, French and Italian. A current version can be accessed via the following external links:

German

Italian

French

The COVID-19 Ordinance Tenancy entered into force on 28 March 2020, 00:00 CET and is limited until 31 May 2020 for the time being (Art. 5 COVID-19 Ordinance Tenancy).

7.2 Move out and move in

Moving out of and moving into rented or leased residential and business premises is allowed if the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health concerning hygiene and social distance are respected (Art. 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Tenancy).

7.3 Extension of payment deadlines

Tenancy (Miete von Wohn- und Geschäftsräumen)

The landlord can, if the tenant is delayed with the payment of due rent or ancillary costs, set the tenant a payment deadline in writing and threaten him that the tenancy will be terminated if the deadline expires unused. By law, this period is in the case of residential and business premises at least 30 days (Art. 257d para 1 Code of Obligations).

The Federal Council extended this deadline for payments of rents and ancillary costs. If the tenant is due to the Federal Council's measures to combating coronavirus unable to pay the rent or additional costs, which are due between 13 March 2020 and 31 May 2020, the period set by the landlord for payment of rent or ancillary costs must - by way of derogation from Art. 257d para 1 Code of Obligations - be at least 90 days (Art. 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Tenancy).

Notice period for furnished rooms and parking spaces

The Federal Council also extended the period of notice for the rental of furnished rooms and from separately rented parking spaces or similar facilities from 14 days to 30 days (Art. 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Tenancy).

Lease (Pacht)

Further, the Federal Council adopted rules similar to the tenancy for lease (Pacht).

Normally, the lessor can set the lessee who is delayed with the payment of due lease interest or incidental expenses a payment deadline of at least 60 days in writing and threaten him with the termination of the lease if the deadline expires unused (Art 282 para 1 Code of Obligations).

The Federal Council extended this deadline for payments of lease interst and incidental expenses as well. If the lessee is due to the Federal Council's measures to combating coronavirus unable to pay the lease interest or incidental expenses, which are due between 13 March 2020 and 31 May 2020, the period set by the landlord for payment of rent or ancillary costs must - by way of derogation from Art. 282 para 1 Code of Obligations - be at least 120 days (Art. 4 COVID-Ordinance Tenancy).

8. LEGAL PROCEEDINGS AND DEBT COLLECTION

8.1 Legal basis

INTRODUCTION
Since the beginning of the extraordinary situation in Switzerland, the Federal Council has adopted several measures whereas duration of some measures has already expired. Where appropriate, the following structure distinguishes between current and past measures.



CURRENT (ACTIVE) MEASURES
Civil, administrative and criminal proceedings
Based on its legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted on 16 April 2020 the Ordinance on Measures in the Area of Justice and procedural Law relating to coronavirus ("COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings").

The COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings is only available in the official languages German, French and Italian which can be accessed via the following external links:

German

Italian

French




PAST MEASURES

Temporary standstill of deadlines in civil and administrative proceedings
Based on its legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted the Ordinance on the Standstill of Deadlines in Civil and Administrative Proceedings for the Maintenance of Justice in Relation to Coronavirus ("COVID-19 Ordinance Standstill").

The COVID-19 Ordinance Standstill is only available in the official languages German, French and Italian, which can be accessed via the following external links:

German

Italian

French

The COVID-19 Ordinance Standstill entered into force on 21 March 2020, 00:00 CET and was limited until 19 April 2020 (Art. 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Standstill).

Debt Collection
Based on Art. 62 of the Federal Law on Debt Collection and Bankruptcy , the Federal Council ordered the legal standstill (Rechtsstillstand) for Switzerland from 19 March 2020, 7:00 CET until 4 April 2020 24:00 CET.

The Federal Law on Debt Collection and Bankruptcy is available in the official languages German, French and Italian. A current version can be accessed via the following external links:

German

Italian

French

8.2 Measures for a functioning judiciary

The federal government regards a functioning judiciary essential. For disputes not resolved amicably, administrative or judicial decisions shall be taken as quickly as possible. Hence, there is no general standstill on proceedings and only following measures have been adopted in the context of the coronavirus pandemic (see also explanation note of the Federal Office of Justice dated 16 April 2020).

A temporary standstill has been adopted until 19 April 2020 for civil and administrative proceedings. Until the same date, a temporary legal standstill in debt collection was in force. Since both measures have not been prolonged, these measures are hereinafter outlined as "past measures" in sections x.1 and x.2.

General prevention measures
In civil, administrative and criminal proceedings with personal participation of parties, witnesses or third parties (e.g. hearings or interrogations), courts and authorities must comply with the recommendations of the Federal Office concerning hygiene and social distance and take appropriate measures (Art. 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings).

Civil proceedings
In derogation from the Federal Code of Civil Procedure, the Federal Council temporarily allowed

  • court hearings and

  • interrogations of witnesses and interviews with experts

by means of video conference without participation of the public (Art. 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings).

Also in derogation from the Federal Code of Civil Procedure, the Federal Council temporarily allowed civil courts to waive the right to a hearing and to order a submission of the proceedings in writing. Preconditions are, that the conduct of a hearing by means of video or telephone conferences is not possible or unreasonable, there is a state of urgency and there are no important reasons against it (Art. 5 COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings).

Debt collection
In derogation from the Federal law on debt collection and bankruptcy (SchKG), notifications, orders and decisions of the debt enforcement and bankruptcy offices and of the supervisory authorities must not be delivered against personal acknowledgement of receipt, if:

a. ) a first ordinary attempt to deliver has failed or in individual cases is impossible or a priori futile due to special circumstances
and

b. ) the addressee no later than the day before delivery has been given notice of delivery by telephone or can be reasonably expected to have received a written or electronic notification of the upcoming delivery no later than the day before (Art. 7 COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings).

The realization of movable property may, in addition to public auctioning (öffentliche Versteigerung) and individual sale (Freihandverkauf) also be carried out by auction via a publicly accessible online platform (Art. 8 COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings).

The COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings entered into force on 20 April 2020, 00:00 CET and is limited until 30 September 2020 for the time being (Art. 19 COVID-19 Ordinance Proceedings).

8.3 Temporary stop of interest on late tax payments

Temporary stop of interest on late payments of taxes, incentive levies and customs duties

According to the Ordinance concerning the temporary Waiver of Interest on Arrears in the Event of Late Payment of Taxes, Incentive Levies and Customs Duties and Waiver of the Reimbursement of Loans by the Swiss Association for Hotel Credit (available in German, French, Italian), Federal Council temporary waives interest on late payments of

  • direct federal tax (Direkte Bundessteuer)

  • value added taxes (Mehrwertsteuer)

  • petroleum tax (Mineralölsteuer)

  • customs duties (Zollabgaben)

  • heavy vehicle tax (Schwerverkehrsabgabe)

  • beer tax (Biersteuer)

  • alcohol tax (Alkoholsteuer)

  • tobacco tax (Tabaksteuer)

  • automobile tax (Automobilsteuer)

Late payment interests are waived from 20 March 2020 until 31 December 2020 with the exception of direct federal taxes (Art. 2). No late payment interest will be owed for direct federal taxes due between 1 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 (Art. 3).

8.4 Temporary standstill of deadlines for popular initiative and referendum

Switzerland has democratic instruments on a federal level which allow Swiss citizens to directly amend the Federal Constitution (popular initiative) or reject federal law adopted by the parliament (referendum). Federal law sets deadlines and timelines for such procedures. Due to the coronavirus the Federal Council imposed a standstill on deadlines with the Ordinance on the Standstill of Deadlines for Federal Referendums and Initiatives (available in German, French, Italian).

Said democratic instruments require the collection of signatures from Swiss citizens which usually takes place on public ground. According to said ordinance, it is prohibited to collect signatures for the time being (Art. 3).

This ordinance entered into force on 21 March 2020 7:00 CET and is limited until 31 May 2020 for the time being.

x.1 Temporary standstill of deadlines in civil- and administrative proceedings

Standstill

Insofar as, according to the applicable procedural law of the Confederation or the Canton, statutory time limits or time limits ordered by the authorities or courts are suspended for Easter, such suspension shall begin on 21 March 2020 00:00 CET and shall last until and including 19 April 2020 (Art. 1 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Standstill).

The effects of the standstill are governed by the applicable procedural law (Art. 1 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Standstill).

The standstill also applies to administrative or judicially ordered deadlines with a specified end date between 21 March 2020, 00:00 CET and 19 April 2020 (Art. 1 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Standstill).

Application and details of the standstill

The federal government published a FAQ in German, French and Italian regarding the application and consequences of the standstill on various procedures. FAQ can be accessed via the following external links from the official website:

German

French

Italian

x.2 Temporary legal standstill in debt collection

Legal Standstill (Rechtsstillstand) ordered by the Federal Council

During legal standstill, no debt enforcement action may be undertaken by authorities, except in the case of attachment proceedings (Arrestverfahren) or if measures to preserve or protect assets cannot be postponed (Art. 56 Federal Law on Debt Collection and Bankruptcy).

The legal standstill ordered by the Federal Council is limited from 19 March 2020, 7:00 CET until 4 April 2020, 24:00 CET (Art. 2 Ordinance on the Standstill in accordance with Article 62 of the Federal Law on Debt Collection and Bankruptcy).

On 20 May 2020, the Federal Council ordered the legal standstill for tour operator or travel agent pursuant to Article 2 of the Federal Act of 18 June 1993 on Travel with regard to customer claims resulting from the failure to provide a travel service, limited until 30 September 2020 (Link).

Extension because of normal legal standstill (Rechtsstillstand) during Easter

The legal standstill ordered by the Federal Council has similar effects like the normal standstill during Easter which lasts 7 days before and after Easter (Art. 56 Federal Law on Debt Collection and Bankruptcy).

Hence, legal standstill does in fact last from 19 March 2020, 7:00 CET until 19 April 2020, 24:00 CET (see also the press release of the Federal Council as of 18 March 2020, accessible via following external link).


9. INSOLVENCY MEASURES FOR BUSINESSES

9.1 Legal basis

Based on the legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted on 16 April 2020 the Ordinance on Insolvency Law Measures to deal with the Corona Crisis ("COVID-19 Ordinance Insolcency").

Purpose of the Ordinance Insolvency is to use selective measures to prevent bankruptcies related to the COVID-19-pandemic and the associated loss of jobs (see press release of the Federal Council dated 16 April 2020). The Federal Office of Justice also published Explanatory notes on these provisions dated 16 April 2020 (link).

The COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency is only available in the official languages German, French and Italian. A current version can be accessed via the following external links:

German

Italian

French

The COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency entered into force on 20 April 2020, 00:00 CET and is limited until 20 October 2020 for the time being (Art. 23 COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency).

9.2 Obligation to notify over-indebtedness

The Federal Council temporarily simplified notification obligations of Aktiengesellschaften, Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH), Genossenschaften and Stiftungen.

Usual notification obligations by example for Aktiengesellschaften (corporation limited by shares)

Pursuant to Art. 725 para 1 and 2 Code of Obligations, the following notification obligations must be observed by Aktiengesellschaften:

  • If the last annual balance sheet shows that half of the share capital and legal reserves are no longer covered, the Board of Directors must immediately convene a general meeting and propose restructuring measures (Art. 725 para 1 CO).

  • If there are reasonable grounds for concern that the company is over indebted, an interim balance sheet must be prepared and submitted to an approved auditor for examination. If the interim balance sheet shows that the claims of the company's creditors are not covered either at the going-concern value nor at the sale value, the Board of Directors must notify the judge unless the company's creditors rank behind all other company creditors to the extent of the under- funding (Art. 725 para 2 CO).

Simplification due to COVID-19

Pursuant to Art. 1 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency, the Federal Council amended this notification obligation: The Board of Directors may waive the notification of the court if the company was not over-indebted on 31 December 2019 and there is a prospect that the over-indebtedness can be remedied by 31 December 2020. Further, the Board of Directors must not submit an interim balance sheet to an approved editor for examination (Art. 1 para 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency).

If the Board of Directors takes the decision to not notify the courts, such a decision must be documented in writing (Art. 1 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency).

This simplification applies to Aktiengesellschaften, Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH), Genossenschaften and Stiftungen (Art. 1 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency, see also the Federal Office of Justice's Explanatory notes on the individual Provisions dated 16 April 2020, page 3).

9.3 COVID-19 Moratorium

Purpose
The Federal Council adopted with Art. 6 et seq a so-called COVID-19 Moratorium. The COVID-19 Moratorium is a simple instrument by which distressed companies can obtain a temporary deferment. Purpose is to allow businesses to reorganize themselves. The procedure and the requirements for deferral are kept very simple in order to allow as many companies as possible to use it. It is designed for small and middle sized companies ("SME").

Preconditions
COVID-19 Moratorium can be requested by every debtor in the legal form of a sole proprietorship, of the partnership or a legal entity if:

  • there was no over-indebtedness on 31 December 2019;

  • no subordination within the meaning of Art. 725 para 2 Code of Obligations in the full extent of the over-indebtedness are present;

  • is not a Publikumsgesellschaft, i.e.
    a) has no shares listed on a stock exchange
    b) has no bonds outstanding
    c) does not contribute at least 20 % to such a company under a) or b)'s assets or turnover according to this companies consolidated financial statements

  • has not exceeded at least two of following numbers in 2019
    a) balance sheet total of CHF 20 million (around USD 20 mio),
    b) sales revenue of CHF 40 million (around USD 40 mio),
    c) 250 full-time positions

(Art. 6 COVID-19 Moratorium).

Request for COVID-19 Moratorium
Debtor must file a request for a COVID-19 Moratorium at the competent court (Nachlassgericht) (Art. 6 para 1 COVID-19 Moratorium). With the application, the debtor must credibly present the financial situation and provide as much evidence as possible (Art. 6 para 3 COVID-19 Moratorium).

Mechanism of COVID-19 Moratorium
COVID-19 Moratorium is a simplified version of the provisional debt-restructuring moratorium (provisorische Nachlassstundung) provided by the Federal law on debt collection and bankruptcy under non-COVID-19-circumstances (see also the Federal Office of Justice's Explanatory notes on the individual Provisions dated 16 April 2020, page 4).

The COVID-19 Moratorium inter alia inlcudes following measures:

  • The COVID-19 Moratorium includes all claims against the debtor that arose before the deferral was granted except in particular claims of employees arising from the employment relationship that arose or became due not earlier than six months before the Moratorium was authorized (as well as other claims listed in Art. 219 para 4 Federal law on debt collection and bankruptcy) (Art. 11 para 1 and 2 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • The debtor is not allowed to pay any other claims otherwise the competent court may initiate ex officio a bankruptcy proceeding (Art. 11 para 3 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • Creditors may neither initiate nor continue a debt collection procedure for claims covered by the COVID-19 Moratorium. Detention measures of assets (e.g. Arrest) are not admitted. Special rules apply to receivables secured by mortgages (grundpfandgesicherte Forderungen), regarding settlement of claims (Verrechnung) and assignments of future receivables (Abtretung einer künftigen Forderung) (Art. 12 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • Statue of limitations stand still (Art. 12 para 5 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • When a legal entity applies for COVID-19 Moratorium, the statutory notification obligations which are in the responsibility of the competent bodies of the company, are deemed to have been fulfilled (Art. 8 para 2 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • As a general rule, no trustee (Sachwalter) is appointed. If, due to the circumstances, an appointment is necessary, the competent court shall, at the request of the debtor, a creditor or ex officio appoint a trustee, irrespective of the state of the proceedings (Art. 9 para 1 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • The authorization and extension of the COVID-19 Moratorium shall be public and immediately notified to the debt enforcement, commercial and land registry offices. The debtor must inform its creditors (Art. 10 COVID-19 Moratorium).

Effect of COVID-19 Moratorium on business of debtor
The debtor may continue its business. During the period of deferment, the debtor may not perform any legal acts (Rechtshandlungen vornehmen) which adversely affect the legitimate interests of the creditors or which advantage individual creditors to the detriment of others (Art. 13 para 1 COVID-19 Moratorium).

Without the authorization of the competent court, fixed assets (Anlagevermögen) may no longer be sold or encumbered in a legally valid manner during the deferment, also no pledges may be given (Art. 13 para 3 COVID-19 Moratorium).

If the debtor acts contrary to this provisions or to the instructions of a trustee (Sachwalter), the competent court may revoke the debtor's power of disposal over its assets or declare bankruptcy. The court may also declare bankruptcy ex officio if this is necessary to preserve the debtor's assets (Art. 13 para 5 COVID-19 Moratorium).

Duration
The COVID-19 Moratorium can be requested for three months (Art. 6 para 1 COVID-19 Moratorium). At the request of the debtor, the court may extend the COVID-19 Moratorium once for a maximum of additional three months (Art. 7 para 1 COVID-19 Moratorium).

If the debtor has made false statements to the court the deferment may be revoked ex officio at any time (Art. 7 para 2 COVID-19 Moratorium).

The COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency entered into force on 20 April 2020, 00:00 CET and is limited until 20 October 2020 for the time being (Art. 23 COVID-19 Ordinance Insolvency).

9.4 Composition agreements

The Federal Council further adobted some simplifcations of composition proceedings (Nachlassverfahren).

Purpose
According to the Federal Office of Justice, a debt-restructuring deferral (Nachlassstundung) could be necessary if the COVID-19 Moratorium may not be applicable. In particular because the debtor does not fulfill the criteria because it is too large. Additionally, the debtor may choose the ordinary debt-restructuring deferral due to specific legal measures which are not available under a COVID-19 Moratorium, such as deferral of employee wages, standstill of legal proceedings or conclusion of a composition agreement (Nachlassvertrag) (see the Federal Office of Justice's Explanatory notes on the individual Provisions dated 16 April 2020, page 3).

Simplifications
In the context of COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Council adopted following simplifications of the ordinary debt-restructuring deferral pursuant to Art. 293 et seq Federal law on debt collection and bankruptcy:

  • The debtor's request for the commencement of composition proceedings (Nachlassverfahren) does not have to be accompanied by a provisional restructuring plan (provisorischer Sanierungsplan) (Art. 3 para 1 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • The competent court does not examine the potential success of a restructuring of the debtor as a precondition of the composition proceeding (keine Prüfung der Sanierungsfähigkeit) (Art. 3 para 3 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • The total duration of the provisional debt-restructuring moratorium is up to six months (Art. 4 COVID-19 Moratorium).

  • Until 31 May 2020, the competent court (Nachlassgericht) will not initiate a bankruptcy proceeding ex officio unless the debtor was already over-indebted on 31 December 2019 or creditors subordinated their claims already at this time due to the over-indebtedness of the debtor (Art. 5 para 3 COVID-19 Moratorium).

10. ASYLUM

10.1 Legal basis

Based on the legal competences to take measures to cope with a pandemic, the Federal Council has adopted the Ordinance on Measures in the Area of Asylum in Relation to with the Coronavirus ("COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum").

The COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum is only available in the official languages German, French and Italian. A current version can be accessed via the following external links:

German

Italian

French

The COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum entered into force on 2 April 2020, 00:00 CET and is limited until 6 July 2020 for the time being (Art. 12 para 1 and 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum). With two exceptions:

  • Art. 4 to 6 entered into force on 6 April 2020, 00:00 CET (Art. 12 para 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum)

  • Art. 2 and 3 are in force until 6 August 2020 (Art. 12 para 4 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum)

10.2 Temporary adjustments on asylum proceedings

The measures taken by the Federal Council predominantly concern accommodation in the federal asyulum centres, the modifications of asylum procedures and the expulsion of rejected asylum seekers (see also the press release of the Federal Council dated 1 April 2020: German, French, Italien).

Accommodation in federal asylum centers

The Federal Council temporarily simplified the conversion of military and civilian facilities for asylum purposes (for details see Art. 2 and 3 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum).

Modifications of asylum procedures

In order to respect the guidelines of the Federal Office for Health, the number of people present during interviews of asylum seekers shall be reduced. Additional persons can be added by means of technical aids. Only the interviewer and the person seeking asylum have to be in de same room. Other persons (e.g. interpreter) may be in a different room connected by technical means or in the same room if the guidelines of the Federal Office for Health are respected (Art. 4 and 5 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum).

If the assigned legal representation in the federal asylum centers and at the airport, as well as the legal representation in the extended procedure, cannot take part in an interview due to circumstances within a certain region in connection with the coronavirus, the interview will be carried out by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) even without their presence, but without limits of its legal effects (Art. 6 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum). As an accompanying measure, the deadline for an appeal against the asylum decision of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) under the accelerated procedure is extended from 7 working days to 30 days (Art. 10 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum; see also the press release of the Federal Council dated 1 April 2020: German, French, Italien).

Articles 4-6 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum shall not apply to proceedings in respect of which an interview has already been scheduled on the date COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum entered into force (Art. 11 para 1 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum).

If, in the case of asylum seekers with assigned legal representation, it is not possible to deliver injunctions and send notifications to the assigned legal representation in accordance with the Asylum Act due to circumstances relating to coronavirus, the delivery shall be carried out to the asylum seeker. The SEM shall notify the assigned legal representation of the delivery on the same day (Art. 7 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum).

Expulsion of rejected asylum seekers

The time limit for departure can be extended to 30 days (Art. 9 para 1 and 2 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum). A longer time limit for departure may be set or a time limit for departure extended if the exceptional situation due to coronavirus makes this necessary (Art. 9 COVID-19 Ordinance Asylum).

11. MISCELLANEOUS

Proximity Tracing

On 13 May 2020, the Federal Council adopted the Ordinance on the pilot test with the "Swiss Proximity Tracing System" for the notification of persons potentially exposed to the coronavirus (Link).

The Swiss parliament adopted on 19 June 2020 an amendment to the Federal Epidemics Act (Epidemiengesetz, EPG): Link, which enterd int o force on 20 June 2020. According to Art. 60a EPG, the Federal Office for Health provides a Proximity-Tracing-System for coronavirus ("PT-System"). The PT-System traces approaches between mobile phones of persons who are connected to the system and notify them if they are potentially exposed to coronavirus (Art. 60a para 1 EPG).

Participation in the PT-System is voluntary (Art. 60a para 3 EPG). Someone who denies a service which he or she offers and which is intended for the general public solely because the customer does not participate in the PT-System shall by fined (Art. 83 para 1 lit. n EPG).

A person who has been notified by the PT-System that he/she has been potentially exposed to coronavirus can, against proof of notification, be tested free of charge for coronavirus infection and for antibodies against the coronavirus (Art. 60a para 4 EPG).