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Swiss go ‘binge-shopping’ in Germany amid fears of border closures

As 10 Swiss cantons are now on Germany’s ‘high risk’ list, many in the region worry that cross-border shopping may be in peril.

Swiss go ‘binge-shopping’ in Germany amid fears of border closures
Swiss residents like shopping g in Germany and other bordering nations. Photo by AFP

The cantons currently on Germany’s quarantine list are Geneva, Vaud, Fribourg, Jura, Neuchâtel, Nidwalden, Schwyz, Uri, Zurich and Zug.

These regions have been added to the list because reported infection rates there are higher than Germany's threshold of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents in seven days. This means that anyone from one of these cantons must be tested on arrival in Germany.

READ MORE: Eight further Swiss cantons added to Germany's 'high risk' list 

Given the restrictions in place, as well as fears that the border between the two countries may close, “many Swiss are going shopping in Germany, causing long queues at parking lots and supermarket checkouts”, 20 Minutes news portal reported.

Tram line number 8, which connects Basel to Weil am Rhein in Germany, was also saturated over the weekend, the newspaper reported.

A photo taken in the tram by a local news channel TeleBasel, shows a man from Switzerland who bought at least 100 rolls of toilet paper in neighbouring Germany.

Photo by TeleBasel

However, there is no need for panic-buying in Germany, local officials say.

Authorities in Baden-Württemberg, the region which borders Switzerland, said that residents of Appenzell, Aargau, Basel, Basel-Country, Jura, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, St. Gallen, Thurgau and Zurich can come to Germany without being tested, as long as they stay no longer than 24 hours — more than enough time to shop.

Making a quick dash to Germany, France or Italy to do some shopping is common practice for many people living in Switzerland’s border regions.

READ ALSO: Hamsterkauf – toiler paper disappears from German supermarket shelves as panic buying returns

That’s because most things are cheaper across the border: a study conducted in 2019 shows that Switzerland’s residents pay 168 francs (156 euros) for a basket of consumer goods costing on average 107 euros in Germany, 109 euros in France, and 98 euros in Italy.

But Switzerland is not the most expensive country in Europe — Iceland and Norway are even costlier, the study found.


 

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COVID-19

Switzerland: How likely is another Covid-19 wave this fall?

Over the border in France, experts say a new wave of Covid in autumn is 'virtually certain', but in Switzerland authorities seem less worried.

Switzerland: How likely is another Covid-19 wave this fall?

After a relative lull in the pandemic in the spring, Covid-19 cases surged at the beginning of the summer, driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron sub-variants.

The weekly reports on the epidemiological situation from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) show that the number of new cases kept steadily increasing until about the middle of July, when it peaked at about 56,000 new cases reported in Switzerland in a single week.

From then on, the numbers have been dropping steadily, with 18,204 new infections recorded this week.

What can we expect in the coming weeks and months?

One thing we have learned in the past two and a half years is that coronaviruses are unpredictable, and their evolution (or the emergence of new sub-variants) can’t be forecast with a high degree of certainty.

For instance, health experts did not foresee this summer’s outbreak, believing – based on the experiences of previous waves – that infections are more common in the autumn and winter when cold weather drives people indoors.

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

It is also difficult to predict what new sub-variants and mutations could emerge in the future, or what properties they will have.

Next wave and hospitals

Health officials in neighbouring France believe that a surge of Covid cases in the autumn is ‘virtually certain’.

Given the geographic proximity and the flow of people between the two countries, it is reasonable to expect the same scenario to unfold in Switzerland as well.

However, Swiss experts say they believe that even if there is a new wave, most people will have only mild or moderate symptoms.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, said Tanya Stadler, former head of the Covid-19 Task Force.

Based on the current evolution and forecasts, authorities say they don’t expect the health system to be overloaded with new Covid patients.

This is because “circulating sub-variants of Omicron do not cause more severe forms of the disease than the previous sub-variants”, the government said.

Vaccines

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine (representing a fourth dose for most people) is already available to people in high-risk groups, but while authorities are urging people to get vaccinated, they also say that if Omicron remains the dominant variant, no mass vaccinations will be needed in the near future.

“The current vaccine does not provide clear protection against the Omicron”, according to Giuseppe Pantaleo, head of the immunology unit at Vaud university hospital (CHUV).

That may change soon, however: both Pfizer and Moderna have asked Switzerland’s drug regulatory body, Swissmedic, to authorise their Omicron-adapted vaccines.

The agency is now reviewing the applications but once approved,  the new vaccines are expected to be used for the second round of booster shots, with the rollout for general public to begin sometime in the fall.

READ MORE: Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

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