‘The risk is too great’: Why Switzerland rejected a five-day quarantine

‘The risk is too great’: Why Switzerland rejected a five-day quarantine
Swiss health minister Alain Berset. Photo: SALVATORE DI NOLFI / POOL / AFP
The Swiss government has rejected a call from experts in France and Germany - along with several Swiss cantons - to halve the country’s quarantine requirement. Here’s why.

The health directors from Switzerland’s cantons met with federal authorities on Monday to discuss the measures the country has put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus. 

At the top of the cantons’ list was the federal government’s mandatory ten-day quarantine requirement for all returnees from ‘high-risk’ countries. 

A handful of cantons wanted to shorten the quarantine period, saying it was not proportional. 

It added to calls from experts in France and Germany, who want to cut the current ten-day quarantine period. 

German virologist Christian Drosten has said a five-day period would be sufficient, while France is pushing for a seven-day window. 

Switzerland however confirmed the ten-day quarantine would stay. 

Swiss news outlet Le Temps reports that despite the cantonal protests, the federal government “does not intend to relax this measure”. 

UPDATED: Who can enter Switzerland right now?

'The risk is too great'

Jean-Pierre Gallati, councillor from Aargau who attended the meeting, said “halving the quarantine period would be negligent.”

Gallati said the risk of a five day quarantine period is too great as findings from his canton show that half of those studied are still infectious after five days. 

“We would all be happy to shorten the duration, but that would be the wrong way at the moment,” Gallati said. 

This contradicts with information provided by Drosten that 90 percent of people are no longer infectious after five days.

 

Cantons call for shorter quarantines

Bern State Councillor Pierre Alain Schnegg said imposing a shorter quarantine would be a more proportional measure which the public would be more likely to comply with. 

“I think it is better to implement a shorter quarantine that is respected, rather than impose one (which is) too long that (will) not be.

“In my canton, we now have three hospitalisations for Covid, including one intubated person. On the other hand, we have more hospitalisations due to sports accidents. However, we are not banning sport!”

UPDATED: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's quarantine requirement 

Rebecca Ruiz, State Councillor from Vaud, cited economic and social reasons for shortening the quarantine. 

“Several cantons have reported that quarantine is badly experienced by part of the population and places certain economic sectors under strong tension,” she said. 

“I would like to ask for an in-depth reflection at the level of the Confederation to consider room for manoeuvre, such as being able to return to work wearing the mask after five days of isolation”

Mario Poggia, the Minister of Health for Geneva – Switzerland’s heaviest hit canton by the virus – said managing the quarantine “was time consuming and difficult”. 

‘Risky’ 

As reported by The Local Switzerland in August, government health authorities are reluctant to shorten the quarantine. 

According to Rudolf Hauri, President of the Association of Swiss Cantonal Doctors, health authorities “are discussing shortening the duration of the quarantine by wearing the mask instead”. 

However, Virginie Masserey, head of FOPH’s infection control, said that while the matter is being reassessed, “it would be risky to reduce the quarantine, which is already shorter in Switzerland than in other countries, where it usually lasts 14 days”. 

Currently about 8,500 people are in quarantine in Switzerland due to exposure, and just over 16,000 after arriving from a country at risk.


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