IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING THE "COVID-19-SITUATION"

(updated October 24, 2020)

Latest development of the situation

In order to minimize the transmission of corona infections, the government council of the Canton of Bern has decided on comprehensive measures starting Saturday, 24 October.


Among other things, events with more than 15 persons as well as sales fairs and trade exhibitions are prohibited. Bars, clubs, discotheques, dance halls, as well as publicly accessible facilities such as museums, cinemas, sports and fitness centers will be closed. Competitions and trainings of team sports of lower leagues as well as the practice of individual sports with close physical contact are no longer permitted. Finally, additional measures will also apply to the catering trade, namely a closing hour from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. The new rules apply from midnight today. Events with family and friends, for which commitments have already been made, may still be held at the weekend with more than 15 people.

The number of positively tested Bernese continues to rise. While an average of around 40-50 cases per day were recorded in mid-September, these figures have now risen to several hundred per day. Today the canton reported 802 corona cases. September's positive rates of one to two percent also now contrast sharply with the key figures, which recently reached a value of 12.9 percent. It is important to break this wave as quickly as possible.

The Government Council therefore wants to reduce contacts among the population in a targeted manner in order to protect them as best as possible and to contain the number of infections. For this reason, it has decided today, Friday (23.10.2020), on a series of additional measures and issued the Ordinance on the Control of the Covid 19 Epidemic. It supplements the measures put into force by the Federal Council on 18 October 2020. It will enter into force at 00:00 on 24 October 2020 and will remain in force until 23 November. The Ordinance contains the following points in particular.

Prohibition of events with more than 15 persons and of trade fairs and exhibitions

Events with more than 15 spectators or visitors are prohibited. This also applies to occasions within the family and circle of friends, as well as for company events of a social nature such as Christmas dinners or aperitifs. Only funeral ceremonies may still take place with more than 15 people, but with the obligation to wear masks and contact lists. Then already booked private events such as weddings, birthdays etc. can still take place this weekend (24./25.10.2020) as planned.

Excluded from the limitation to 15 persons are municipal assemblies and meetings of parliaments, including commission meetings, provided that they have a protection concept.

The holding of trade fairs and trade exhibitions is prohibited. No products for direct consumption may be offered at markets.

Closure of public facilities

The following public facilities are closed to the public: Bars, clubs, discotheques, dance halls, museums, reading rooms of libraries and archives, cinemas, concert halls, theaters, casinos and amusement arcades, erotic establishments, sports and fitness centers, swimming pools as well as wellness centers, provided that they do not belong to a hotel and are exclusively available to hotel guests.

Obligation to wear masks in arcades

The obligation to wear a mask is no longer limited to indoor public areas. Also in arcades and roofed areas in front of publicly accessible buildings, a face mask must be worn as of tomorrow.

The Government Council also recommends that the population wear masks when working indoors, if possible, to protect themselves and others from infection. Masks in offices should at most be taken off when one person is alone in the room.

Team and contact sports: No amateur training and competitions

Competitions and training of team sports may no longer take place. Excluded from this ban are the teams of the two top leagues in the sports of football, ice hockey, handball, volleyball and floorball. However, spectators are no longer permitted.

Sports that require constant close physical contact are also no longer allowed. This does not apply to persons who practice such a sport professionally.

Restriction of the number of guests in restaurants and closing time from 23 hrs

The number of simultaneously present guests is now limited to 100 persons for all restaurants. From Monday, October 26, 2020, only groups of no more than four people may sit together at the same table in restaurants. Larger groups are permitted if the group consists exclusively of people living in the same household. Restaurants must be closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Existing overtime permits are therefore invalid.


At an extraordinary meeting on 18 October, the Federal Council introduced several further national measures to combat the rapid rise in coronavirus infections.

From Monday, 19 October spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 persons are not permitted in public. A mask must be worn in publicly accessible indoor areas, including in all railway stations and airports, and at bus and tram stops. Moreover, there are now new rules for private events of more than 15 persons, and in restaurants, bars and clubs food and drink may only be consumed sitting down. Following consultations with the cantons, the Federal Council has adapted the Special Situation COVID-19 Ordinance accordingly. This now also includes a recommendation to work from home.

The rapid rise in coronavirus cases in the last few days is a cause for great concern. The number of cases is on the increase in all age groups and across all cantons. The number of persons admitted to hospital is also rising. The new national measures agreed by the federal government and the cantons aim to better protect the public’s health and to prevent the health system from becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks and months. The intention is also to considerably curb the number of new cases so that the cantons can continue to contract trace effectively. Despite the restrictions, it is hoped that the economy can continue to function and people can live their lives with as little disruption as possible.

Masks now mandatory in the whole of Switzerland

The requirement for persons over the age of 12 to wear a mask on public transport has been in place since 6 July. From Monday 19 October this will be extended to railway stations including platforms, airports and other publicly accessible public transport areas. As before, persons who are unable to wear a mask for medical reasons are exempt from the requirement.

Masks are now also compulsory in publicly accessible indoor spaces including all shops, shopping centres, banks, post offices, museums, libraries, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, indoor areas of zoos and botanical gardens, restaurants, bars, discos, casinos, hotels (with the exception of guests’ rooms), entrance areas and changing rooms in swimming pools, sports facilities and gyms, doctor’s surgeries, hospitals and places of worship, advisory centres and neighbourhood centres. Masks must also be worn in publicly accessible areas of administrative buildings.

Face masks must also be worn in all schools and higher education establishments, in child-care facilities and in the training areas of sport and fitness centres if part of the centre’s precautionary measures.

Rules for private events

Many people become infected with the coronavirus when families and friends gather. Gatherings should be avoided were possible. At private events attended by over 15 people, food and drink may only be consumed while seated. Anyone standing up must wear a mask. Furthermore, hygiene rules must be observed at all times and contact details must be recorded. For private events of more than 100 people there must be a set of precautionary measures (as for public events) and may only be held in publicly accessible venues.

Gatherings of more than 15 not permitted in public

Spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 persons are not permitted in public spaces such as town squares, streets, paths and parks. The aim is to prevent private events moving outdoors. Organised outdoor events such as political and civil society demonstrations are permitted provided precautionary measures are observed.

Seating requirement in bars, clubs and restaurants

In restaurants, bars and clubs, food and drink may only be consumed while seated, both indoors and out.

Working from home recommended

The Federal Council has added a paragraph on working from home to the Special Situation COVID-19 Ordinance. Employers are now required to observe the recommendation by the Federal Office of Public Health for employees to work from home. This will prevent large numbers of people coming together, particularly at peak times, and reduce close contact in the workplace. It will also reduce the risk of a whole work team having to go into quarantine if one member becomes infected with COVID-19.

Since 19 June, the cantons have played the lead role in combating the COVID-19 epidemic in Switzerland. The Confederation still expects the cantons to conduct widespread testing, implement a sound system of contract tracing and employ targeted measures to help fight the epidemic.

More Information about SwissCovid app and contact tracing (link)

IMPACTS ON OUR BUSINESS HOURS

Law firms, as purely advisory service providers, are not affected by the officially ordered business closures (link to the regulation).

In compliance with the hygiene recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (link), our office remains open for you.

Meetings can take place in person, by telephone or, without any problems, by video conference. You can reach us by phone from 09:00 - 12:00 and 14:00 - 17:00.

IMPACTS ON JUDICIAL PROCEEDINGS

In accordance with the decision of the higher court of the Canton of Berne on March 18, 2020, the civil and criminal jurisdiction negotiations of the Canton of Berne were suspended until April 19, 2020, with the exception of urgent proceedings. As far as possible, the procedures are carried out in writing - this also applies to complaints procedures in the area of ​​care. All non-urgent examination hearings in criminal proceedings were also suspended (until April 26). Court hearings in criminal cases were resumed on April 20, 2020 - in civil cases the court hearings were resumed on May 11, 2020.

The Federal Council has specified in an ordinance (link in German) the conditions under which the civil courts can order the use of teleconferences or videoconferences or written procedures instead of hearings. They must comply with data protection and security provisions and the obligation to keep records. However, hearing a child by teleconference or videoconference in civil proceedings is excluded.

We will inform our clients directly about the concrete effects on the current cases.

IMPACTS ON PRISON REGIME

If there is a serious reason to suspect a case of COVID-19 in an establishment or if a case is confirmed, visits may again be temporarily prohibited in order to contain the spread of the virus. In such cases, the OEJ will provide appropriate alternatives such as increased use of the telephone or video telephone to allow detained persons to stay in touch with the outside world. Outings and leaves are prohibited. Special leave may be granted for matters which cannot be postponed, for example for a job interview or for the search for accommodation, provided that the legal conditions are met and the instructions of the Federal Office of Public Health respected (link, in German).

IMPACTS ON RENTAL AGREEMENTS of commercial premises

In the context of the coronavirus crisis, the payment of commercial rents will be divided between lessors and tenants. On July 1, 2020, the Federal Council put a project along these lines in consultation. For the period of closure or restriction ordered, the tenants will have to pay 40% of the rent and the lessors will have to assume the remaining 60%. The consultation ends on August 4, 2020.


IMPACTS ON BUSINESSES AND CORPORATIONS

On March 20, 2020, the Federal Council also resolved a comprehensive package of measures amounting to CHF 32 billion to cushion the economic consequences of the spread of the corona virus. The measures already adopted on March 13 are intended to provide over CHF 40 billion. The measures include liquidity support for companies, the expansion and simplification of the short-time work allowance and also compensation for loss of earnings for self-employed persons and for parents whose childcare outside for their children fails.

At its meeting on April 16, 2020, the Federal Council decided to extend the right to the COVID-19 loss of earnings allowance. From now on, the self-employed who are only indirectly affected by official pandemic control measures will also be entitled to an allowance if they are authorized to work, but their activity has decreased or ended because of said measures. example of taxi drivers. The right to the allowance for parents of children with disabilities who must keep them at home will also be extended to children up to the age of 20 years (link in German).

The phasing out of measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic requires adaptations in terms of compensation for lost earnings. On April 22, 2020, the Federal Council decided to extend until May 16 the right to this allowance for the self-employed who can reopen their business on April 27 or May 11 (link in German).

Companies and the self-employed who are now faced with a drop in sales can quickly and unbureaucratically apply for bridging loans (mostly through their house bank) from March 26, 2020 (a ll information and the application form can be found here: link).

Innovative start-ups are an important success factor for the Swiss economy. However, they have so far been unable to use the Confederation's emergency measures, or only to a very limited extent. This is why the Confederation intends to use the bonding system in addition to the COVID-19 credits from the Confederation and cantonal support measures, in order to protect promising start-ups from insolvency linked to the coronavirus. Given the urgency of the situation, the Federal Council decided on April 22, 2020 to use the bonding system already enjoyed by SMEs to support start-ups. Startups submit a loan guarantee application via this website (link).

In order to lighten the burden of businesses and the self-employed in this extraordinary situation, social insurance (AVS, AI, APG, AC) generally waive, until June 30, 2020, the collection of default interest on arrears of contribution. The measure is applied retroactively from March 21. However, contributions remain due and must be paid in full. From July 1, 2020, the compensation funds will again present summons in the event of non-payment of contributions and may, if necessary, initiate proceedings

Since March 20, 2020, companies experiencing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus crisis have been able to request a suspension of payment of interest-free contributions. They must then undertake to make payments by regular installments. The possibility of a payment in installments of the contributions due remains valid and this payment will be interest free until September 20, 2020 (link, in German).

The government council of Berne amended the regulation on emergency measures to deal with the coronavirus crisis. The previous measures are supplemented by the following additional ones. As a property owner, the canton of Berne can waive the net rent, lease and building right interest for restaurants, bars, shops and other facilities affected by the federal law closure. Upon request, the corresponding interest for the months of April, May and June 2020 can be waived in whole or in part (link, in German).

On April 1, 2020, the Federal Council decided to temporarily modify the ordinance on electronic signature. This change is an additional measure to stem the spread of the coronavirus. It provides for a general possibility of identification by video when certificates are issued, which avoids travel and personal contact (link, in German).

The cultural sector is strongly affected by the VIDOC-19 pandemic and the measures taken by the authorities to mitigate its effects. On 20 March 2020, the Federal Council therefore decided on a package of measures worth CHF 280 million for culture. Applications for financial support can be submitted to the cantons, the Swiss Social Culture Association or amateur cultural associations (link, in German).

In response to the coronavirus pandemic the Federal Council has declared that an extraordinary situation exists in Switzerland. Among other things this has an impact on arrangements relating to compulsory basic health and accident insurance. Since 4 March 2020, health insurers have been obliged to cover the costs of coronavirus testing for patients with severe symptoms. Basically the insured person pays a share of the cost (via their annual deductible and copayment). If a canton orders the test, it pays the full costs. You will find all further information concerning this matter here (link).

At its meeting on April 16, 2020, the Federal Council adopted amendments and clarifications to Ordinance 2 on measures to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19). These modifications and clarifications aim to avoid any ambiguity and any misunderstanding and bring clarification to the population. The ban on shopping trips and the provisions relating to fines in particular are explicitly regulated (link in German)

On April 29, 2020, the Federal Council decided that initial and additional training as well as examinations in the field of road traffic will be authorized again as of May 11, 2020, provided that the organizer has developed and is implementing a protection plan and that it ensures that the recommendations of the FOPH in terms of hygiene and social distancing are respected. In addition, the number of participants in initial and additional training must not exceed five people (teacher included). On the other hand, it is not limited with regard to exams (e.g. theoretical exam).

Should your company require legal assistance in connection with the current situation (e.g. for the assertion of short-time work compensation due to closure or loss of turnover), we would be happy to provide legal advice.

Second wave