How and when will Switzerland end its coronavirus lockdown?

While health authorities in Switzerland say that it is too early to end the state of emergency that has been in place since March 16th, they are looking into different strategies to help the Swiss resume their usual activities.

How and when will Switzerland end its coronavirus lockdown?
Two people practice social distancing while swimming in Lake Geneva. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

The state of emergency has been declared until April 19th, closing all restaurants, bars, and entertainment and leisure facilities, except grocery stores and pharmacies.

The public are urged to say indoors, schools are shut, and get-togethers of more than five people are banned.

However, Health Minister Alain Berset said on Sunday that since the peak of the infections has not yet been reached, “for the moment, it seems illusory to think we will be able to relax the measures on April 20th”. 

READ MORE: Swiss health minister warns public 'it's illusory to think lockdown will end on April 20th' 

More than 21,000 people have been tested positive for Covid-19 — though the real number is likely higher — and 734 people have died. 

“It is only when the number of infected people and hospital admissions clearly decreases that we can consider relaxing the rules,” he added.

Still, “it is very difficult to maintain confinement, even a partial one, for a very long time, because of the consequences on psychology, health, and economy”, Julien Riou, an epidemiologist at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at the University of Bern told RTS television. 

But while no date is yet in sight, best exit strategies are already being discussed. So far two possible scenarios are on the table.

SCENARIO 1: Testing and tracing of contacts

This option would involve ending the lockdown but keeping an eye on new cases. Each symptomatic case would be tested and the infected person quarantined. All the people who have been recently in contact with the infected individual would be traced and also isolated to break the chain of transmission.

However, this scenario would demand huge manpower and many hours of work, not to mention testing kits being available.

SCENARIO 2: De-confinement in stages 

The group, which is made up of about 100 doctors and entrepreneurs, has raised the possibility of a gradual relaxation of rules.

In a first wave, people under the age of 40 — the group that has had the least Covid-19 complications — would be released first to create group immunity. Three weeks later, the 40 to 65-year-olds would be able to end their confinement. And three weeks after that, serological tests would be done to verify that the population is well immunised and that the virus can no longer circulate. Only then would the oldest people be de-confined.

Riou, however, is skeptic of this plan because “I don’t think we will have a controlled immunity in the population”, he said.

“This virus still has a mortality rate of 1 to 3 percent. If we let it be transmitted, we will have many deaths”, he added.

He also pointed out that countries such as the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which adapted this strategy at the beginning of the outbreak, have since abandoned it.

Berset said the authorities “are examining different scenarios. They should not only be relevant, but also socially acceptable”. 

Before any measure could be implemented, however, “more will need to be known about the spread of the virus and its behaviour”, he added.

READ MORE: UPDATE: What you need to know about the coronavirus crisis in Switzerland 

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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?