SHARE
COPY LINK

NEUCHATEL

UPDATE: Geneva and other Swiss cantons introduce tighter coronavirus restrictions

Several Swiss cantons have announced tougher measures to fight the spread of Covid-19, going further than the rules implemented by the Federal Council.

UPDATE: Geneva and other Swiss cantons introduce tighter coronavirus restrictions
Geneva and Jura closed their bars and restaurants. Photo by AFP

Last week the Swiss government announced new Covid-19 restrictions that were implemented on October 29th.

While a lockdown is not part of the new measures, masks must now be worn outdoors in all urban areas where “the concentration of people does not allow the necessary distances to be respected”.

There is also an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and discos, as well as the limit of 10 people for private gatherings and 50 for public events.

These measures are ground rules, and each individual canton can implement further restrictions. In other words, while cantons can’t revoke any of the federal measures, they can add their own, more restrictive ones.

On Sunday, Geneva authorities announced a ‘semi-confinement’, to begin on November 2nd,
 which goes beyond Swiss national measures. They include closing all bars, restaurants and non-essential shops in a bid to rein in skyrocketing coronavirus cases.

Warning that Geneva is experiencing a “severe aggravation of the situation”, cantonal authorities also shut down leisure establishments like cinemas, museums, libraries and pools.

People are encouraged to leave their homes only if strictly necessary, though there are no legal bans on moving about.

And unlike the lockdown in the spring, schools will remain open.

READ MORE: Geneva goes beyond national corona rules, shutting bars and restaurants 

Other cantons are also introducing measures that go beyond those mandated on the federal level.

For instance, in Neuchâtel, only five people allowed to gather together in private from Monday, while the Federal Council authorises groups of up to 10.

Jura is also limiting groups to five people from November 2nd, imposing more restrictions from the same day.

All bars, restaurants, museums, theaters, cinemas, and libraries in the canton will remain closed until November 15th.

The canton of Obwalden limits public events to 30 people from Monday, compared to 50 at the national level. The ruling applies to public events indoors and out, but not to political assemblies. The same measure is already in force in Schwyz.

In Lucerne, erotic salons are closed and masks are required in cars for people who don’t come from the same household — measures which also go beyond those mandated nationally.

Also on Sunday, the Swiss ski lift association announced it would make face masks obligatory on all lifts during the coming winter season, including open chairlifts.

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

SHOW COMMENTS