Covid-19: Is Switzerland’s 10-day quarantine really long enough?

While most countries have implemented a 14-day quarantine, in Switzerland its duration is only 10 days. But is a shorter period sufficient and effective in stopping the spread of Covid-19?

Covid-19: Is Switzerland’s 10-day quarantine really long enough?
A 10-day quarantine is sufficient to curb the transmission of coronavirus, Swiss doctors say. Photo by AFP

According to Neuchâtel’s cantonal doctor Claude-François Robert, it is important to find a compromise between the effectiveness of the quarantine in curbing the infections and the social constraints it imposes.

“You have to take into account the limitations to private and professional life that the quarantine represents”, Robert said in an interview with RTS television.

“In our experience, ten days is acceptable”, he added.

Robert explained that the efficacy of quarantines is measured by the number of secondary and tertiary infections which occur after people have been isolated — in other words, whether the chain of contaminations continues or not.

“For the moment, no tertiary cases have been observed, which means that the quarantine measures are effective”, he said.

Currently 2,897 people are under a 10-day quarantine order in Switzerland, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

READ MORE: Switzerland: 280 forced into isolation after alleged 'coronavirus superspreader attends party'

Most have been found to be exposed to the virus through contacts with an infected person.

Others are travellers who have returned to Switzerland from countries considered by the Swiss government to be unsafe due to the high number of Covid-19 cases. 

Since July 6th, they are required to self-quarantine as a precaution, or face a possible fine of up to 10,000 francs.

The only people exempted from the quarantine rule are healthcare workers, as there is staff shortage in some Swiss hospitals.

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Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Switzerland will shorten the obligatory quarantine for anyone testing positive for Covid to five days, while extending the current measures until at least March. The duration of immunity for the Covid certificate will also be shortened.

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland on Wednesday announced a range of changes to the existing Covid measures. 

As had been widely reported ahead of the announcement, the Covid quarantine period for positive cases was shortened from the current ten days to five for vaccinated and recovered people. 

People can leave quarantine after five days, provided they are symptom free for 48 hours. Based on the new advice, it does not appear a person needs to test negative – although the government has been contacted for a confirmation on this question. 

EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid quarantine rules?

The quarantine change applies both to people who have tested positive and those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. 

“Close contact” will also be redefined. Now it will not include everyone someone with Covid has had contact with, but will be limited to the people they live with and people who had “regular and close” contact with a person who tested positive. 

The close contact quarantine will not apply to people who have had a booster in the past four months, but it will apply to those who have had two doses.

The unvaccinated will need to remain in quarantine for the original ten days. 

Cantons can decide to grant exemption to the quarantine rules. 

The duration of immunity under the rules of Switzerland’s Covid certificate will be reduced from one year to 270 days, i.e. nine months.

This is due to the belief that immunity due either to vaccination or recovery declines earlier than previously thought. 

The 270-day requirement applies to those who are fully vaccinated or to people who have previously had the virus.

This shortening of the time period for the validity of the Covid certificate will apply from February 1st, as with the EU’s rules for international travel. 

The current Covid measures, which are outlined in the link below, will also be extended. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

While they were set to expire on January 24th, they will now be extended until March 31st. 

The government said the extension was necessary due to the situation in the country’s hospitals. 

Amid skyrocketing infection rates, the Swiss government said it had prepared additional measures which could be implemented quickly and immediately if the situation required it. 

“Should the situation in hospitals deteriorate significantly, the Federal Council can still act swiftly by imposing stricter measures such as the closure of facilities and institutions or by limiting capacity at large-scale events, regardless of the consultation,” the government said in a press release

The government is currently in consultation with experts and the cantons about these and further measures, including tighter mask rules and a change in testing rules.

This consultation will last until the 17th of January, however those listed here are expected to apply. 

For the full list of changes announced you can visit the government site HERE.