Why Swiss canton Vaud is relaxing quarantine rules despite rising cases

Although it has the highest number of Covid-19 cases in the country, Vaud is easing its quarantine regulations, the first Swiss canton to do so.

Why Swiss canton Vaud is relaxing quarantine rules despite rising cases
Vaud's university hospital, CHUV, in Lausanne, handles the most serious Covid-19 cases. Photo by AFP

Until now, Vaud required people who had been in contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus to quarantine at home for 10 days.

This measure was intended to break the chain of virus transmission from one person to another — a rule that is in effect in other cantons as well.

However, on Thursday Vaud health authorities announced that only those who live in the same household as a positive person or who have intimate relations with this person, are required to quarantine. 

For all others, an ‘automatic’ quarantine will no longer be compulsory, but it will be decided on a case-to-case basis.

READ MORE: 'Worst infection rate in Switzerland': New lockdown measures introduced in Vaud 

The decision on whether to impose the quarantine will be based on the kind of contact a person had with the infected individual, health officials said.

For instance, they will be asked whether a distance of at least 1.50 metres was maintained and for how long, if there was a close physical contact such as a shared drink, or was it just a meal taken at the same table in a restaurant.

“Depending on the answers, the team responsible for tracing decides whether or not to quarantine”, Vaud’s cantonal doctor Karim Boubaker told RTS television .

Those who will be exempt from quarantine will have to self-monitor, maintain safety distances, wear the mask when necessary or compulsory, and be tested at the slightest symptom of Covid-19.

According to Boubaker, one of the reasons behind the easing of the measures is to relieve local businesses that have to operate with the shrinking workforce.

He said that instead of strict quarantines, we have “to aim for proportionality”.

Currently, 2,000 people are quarantined in the canton, out of nearly 6,455 in the whole of Switzerland.

The announcement came just as new restrictions, driven by an increasing rate of infections in the canton came into force on Thursday afternoon. 

The canton currently has 221 infections per 100,000 people, the highest in Switzerland.

Among the new restrictions are the requirement to wear a mask in all indoor settings, limiting private gatherings to 100 people, and shutting down nightclubs.

The new quarantine regulation applies only to those who have been exposed to contaminated individuals.

The rules have not changed for travellers from high-risk nations, who are still required to quarantine for 10 days after their arrival in Switzerland.



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‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?