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Setting an example: How Switzerland reopened for events

To date, Switzerland has had 1,833 Covid-19-related deaths since its first reported case in late February.

Considering it shares a border with Italy, the world’s fourth-worst affected country, Switzerland was able to start easing lockdown restrictions in May and has most recently announced events of up to 1,000 people can take place.

But how can this be the case?

M&IT spoke to Bettina Mumenthaler, UK and Ireland manager for meetings and incentives at the Switzerland Convention and Incentive Bureau, about how the decision was reached and what they’re doing to instil confidence in planners and delegates.

“Events and gatherings for up to 1000 people are again permitted, however, contact tracing must be possible at all times,” Mumenthaler explained.

Switzerland

Bettina Mumenthaler

“Event organisers must ensure that the maximum number of people that may need to be contacted does not exceed 300. This can be achieved by dividing the venue into sectors. The cantons (Swiss regions) may see fit to apply a lower number.”

In addition to contact tracing at events, Switzerland Tourism released the ‘Clean & Safe Label’ that can be used by venues to reassure delegates of its hygiene and cleanliness levels.

“Different industry associations came together to draft up specific guidelines for their respective sector. These concepts are based on rules for hygiene and behaviour, as well as public health and employee protection guidelines issued by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO),” Mumenthaler added.

Unlike in the UK where venues are issuing their own safety procedures, all Swiss establishments, whether that is a restaurant, hotel or event venue, are required to have a security concept approved by the government, otherwise, they are not allowed to open.

“The Clean & Safe label is a communication campaign based on these security concepts and is a way to reassure guests that the labelled establishments have a government-approved security concept in place.”

The Expo Event Swiss LiveCom Association is responsible for ensuring the safety regulations are enforced at event venues with the help from regional authorities who will monitor compliance with the protocols.

Mumenthaler said the response from the industry has been positive and the convention and incentive bureau has even seen enquires come through for late 2020.

“Seeing how Switzerland has handled the situation and the fact that the country is opening up and allowing business to happen again has resonated well with event planners” Mumenthaler added.

“They are hopeful and trust in the future of the industry.”

Switzerland Tourism has created a landing page which is regularly updated with Covid-19 related information.