Masks compulsory in public transportation – this is what the FOPH says

The wearing of masks has been compulsory by official order since July 2020. Here, we provide an overview of the questions answered by the FOPH.

The answer in detail

The most frequently asked questions regarding the subject of compulsory masks

An updated  list of the new decisions by the Federal Counsil can be found here.

Below we report the FAQs released by the FOPH. Changes and updates can be found under the same link.

Where is the obligation to wear a mask in place?

The obligation to wear a mask applies in all means of public transportation. This means that a mask must be worn on trains, trams, and buses, as well as in cable cars or on passenger ships.

Are there exceptions for small children or other people?

Children under 12 years of age are exempt from the obligation to wear a mask. Moreover, people who cannot wear a mask for special reasons, especially medical, are also exempt.

Do I have to wear a mask if the train or bus is half empty?

The obligation to wear a mask is in effect regardless of how many people are traveling by public transportation. You never know how many people will get on. In light of commuter traffic and leisure travel during times of vacation, you can generally expect higher footfall.

What masks are recommended? Can I used a self-made mask?

In public transportation, you can wear hygiene masks (surgical masks, operation masks) or industrially produced fabric masks. There are norms and standards for hygiene masks and industrially produced fabric masks (www.empa.ch/web/remask, www.testex.com/de/communitymask). Fabric masks can be washed numerous times as instructed by the producer. Handmade masks are not recommended. Important: The mask must cover your mouth and nose, otherwise it is not effective.

If I don’t have a mask: Can I pull a scarf or shawl over my face and nose?

No, the obligation to wear a mask is not met if you use a scarf or shawl. A scarf does not sufficiently protect against infection and only has a limited effect when it comes to protecting others. A hygiene mask or industrially produced fabric mask should be worn.

How do I correctly dispose of my used mask?

When you take the mask off, try only to touch the straps behind the ears and remove the mask from the mouth and nose. Throw it directly in the trash. Whenever you find a mask, don’t touch it with your bare hands. Wash or disinfect your hands before and after you have touched used masks.

Where can I store my mask when I get out of public transportation and would like to use it again later?

One-time use masks should not be reused. Fabric masks should be kept in a paper bag or an envelope. Make sure that the inside does not touch the outside and the mask does not come into contact with your clothes or other objects (cell phone, etc.).

Can I use fabric masks twice in a row?

Yes, however a fabric mask should be worn at most for one day, for example during your morning and evening commute and then washed.

Why isn’t a contact list maintained instead of implementing a mask obligation?

Maintaining contact lists in buses or trains is not possible or feasible for organizational reasons and due to the high number of people getting on and off at each stop.

Who checks whether passengers wear a mask?

Checks are carried out and enforced by train staff and the railway police or security staff.

And if I refuse to wear a mask?

Anyone refusing to wear a mask, will be asked to get off at the next stop. If that person refuses the requests of security staff and does not get off, they can be fined for disobedience (under the normal fines procedure, not a fixed penalty).

Why doesn’t the obligation to wear a mask apply everywhere in the public sphere?

In public transportation, many different people are close to each other for an extended period of time, which increases the risk of the virus spreading. Furthermore, it is not possible to gather the contact details of those present,  which makes contact tracing impossible if someone contracts COVID-19.

For a long time, the message from the FOPH was that masks did not protect healthy people in public spaces. Why is it still compulsory to wear a mask?

If you wear a mask, you help protect others. Those who become infected can be contagious two days before symptoms occur without knowing it. If everyone in close proximity wears a mask, every person will be protected by everyone else. Even though 100% protection is not guaranteed, the spread of the virus slows.

What consequences can I expect if I refuse to wear a protective mask?

If you violate the obligation to wear a protective mask, you can be fined up to CHF 10,000 according to the law of Epidemics. If you are negligent, you can be fined up to a maximum of CHF 5,000. In the workplace, you can be given a warning or dismissed. In the worst case, you may even be dismissed without notice after a warning.

I panic when I wear a mask. Who can issue me a mask dispensation?

People who cannot wear masks for special reasons (mainly medical) must provide evidence of this. The new regulation specifies who can issue a certificate for a mask dispensation for medical reasons. You can go to a doctor, a dentist, a pharmacist or a psychotherapist. A certificate may only be issued if this is indicated for the person concerned. Accordingly, it requires an individual examination.