Swiss warm to masks in the tram but not in the office

A shopper looks at food in a department store in Zurich; here masks have been obligatory in shops since August 27 Keystone / Ennio Leanza

Mask wearing has generally become more accepted in Switzerland since the introduction of obligatory mask wearing on public transport, an official survey has found. But people don’t want to wear them everywhere.

This content was published on August 28, 2020

Switzerland introduced compulsory mask wearing on trains, trams, buses and other modes of public transport on July 6 in an attempt to limit the spread of Covid-19. Before then, only 16% of those asked said they sometimes wore a mask in public.

Now, 45% say they always or sometimes wear a mask, even when not using public transport, according to the latest poll by the Sotomo research instituteExternal link on behalf of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), which was released on Friday.


Three out of five people accept the wearing of masks in shops, the poll found. Unlike with public transport, there is no nationwide rule for shops: it has been left down to the cantons to decide. So far nine cantons, including Zurich and Geneva, have decided to introduce the rule (some already in force, others coming into force shortly). On Friday canton Solothurn became the latest to do so from September 3.

But people seem less keen on wearing masks to work, with only 33% in favour. This has even gone down since the previous survey in April. It is a similar story for obligatory mask wearing at all times outside: 25% (29% in April).

People generally also have less trust in the authorities than at the beginning of the pandemic in March. The FOPH has come in for much criticism of late due to confusion over its Covid-19 data, leading to one newspaper dubbing it: “The Federal Office of Cock-ups”.

Scientists also seem to be losing credibility among the population, the survey found.

SwissCovid app

The survey also looked at attitudes towards the SwissCovid app, a contact-tracing system that has been available to the Swiss public since June 25. There are currently over 1.5 million active apps, according to the latest official statistics.External link

The poll found that 40% of those who were not yet using it said they were waiting for a large rise of Covid cases before they changed their mind.

At a press conference to mark the release of the poll, Sang-Il Kim, head of digital transformation at the FOPH, appealed for people not to wait too long. He is eventually hoping for three million active apps.


Kim was asked about criticism from leading Swiss epidemiologist Marcel Salathé that people were being informed too late via contact tracing and testing. “Support means that you regularly call up people [under contact tracing] to see how they are doing,” he said.

Some more affected cantons have a lot to do at the moment and this can lead to longer waiting times, he added.

The survey also found a rise in concerns over the pandemic, brought on by rising Covid numbers. On Friday, the FOPH recorded 340 new cases, the third day in a row that it has been over 300.

Other countries are concerned: on Thursday Switzerland was added to the growing list of countries from which travellers coming into the United Kingdom will need to go into quarantine.

The survey

This is the fifth survey on the effectiveness of FOPH measures. It was carried out between July 20-29 among 1,673 people across the country.

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