Covid-19: What new rules could Switzerland introduce on Saturday?

Faced with the increasing infection rate in the Swiss-German regions, the Federal Council could order new national restrictions.

Covid-19: What new rules could Switzerland introduce on Saturday?
The situation is dangerous, Berset said this week. Photo by AFP

Federal authorities said this week that as the epidemiological situation in Switzerland is “deteriorating rapidly”, it intends to standardise and strengthen measures at the national level from December 12th.

After a significant drop in the contamination rate throughout November, due mainly to the containment efforts of French-speaking cantons, the number of infections crept up again, especially in the Swiss-German regions and Ticino

Some of the most affected cantons, including Zurich, Solothurn, Basel Country, Basel-City, and Ticino have already implemented stricter measures.

READ MORE: Several Swiss cantons tighten coronavirus measures

“In November, the situation was more positive and hopeful, leading us to believe that we could cut the number of daily cases to between 600 and 800 by Christmas” , Health Minister Alain Berset said in a press conference.

However, this has not happened, and the number of reported daily infections has ranged between 4,000 and 5,000 in the past several days. 

“We are now stagnating at a very high level, which is dangerous, especially if the number of infections starts to rise exponentially again”, Berset said.


To curtail the spread of the virus in the coming days and weeks, the Federal Council is proposing to implement these further restrictions from December 12th until January 20th:

  • It is proposing that restaurants close at 7 pm, instead of 11 pm allowed currently, and remain shut on Sundays. This measure would extend to shops, markets and leisure facilities as well.
  • It also proposes that five people from two households can gather for private events, with exceptions for celebrations for up to 10 people from December 24th to 26th, and on December 31st for Christmas and New Year festivities.
  • All cultural activities would also be prohibited.
  • Public demonstrations would be banned, except for religious celebrations and legislative assemblies. However, skiing would be allowed, as it is an outdoor activity. Rules are in place to ensure skiiers’ safety.

The Federal Council added the final decision on the implementation of the new restrictions would be made on Friday.

Berset said that if the situation were to deteriorate further, other measures will follow on December 18th, such as the closure of restaurants and shops. 


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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.