The ambitious goal that Swiss authorities are hoping to achieve in the remaining days of December is to bring the country’s R-rate down to 0.8 from the current 1.04, which means the number of infections would decline by half every two weeks.
The R-rate is a measure of the speed at which the disease is spreading.
If it is greater than 1, each infected person contaminates more than one person on average. Then the daily number of cases increases exponentially. But if the number is lower, the daily number drops.
“If the numbers continue to go up at the end of December, further measures will have to be taken,” officials said.
But “unless the situation deteriorates drastically in the next four days, a complete lockdown is not an option in the short term”, they added.
The cut-off date for the decisions on which measures to implement is December 28th.
If the R-number exceeds 1 for at least three days, or if the occupancy rate of intensive care beds in Swiss hospitals is over 80 percent, then restaurants would be closed.
Exceptions would be made for take-away and delivery companies, as well as hotel guests.
Leisure and sports centers would also have to close. Only activities such as jogging and cycling, as well as group training for a maximum of five people would be allowed outdoors. Cultural, leisure and entertainment facilities would also be shut down.
If the R-number exceeds 1.1 or 85 percent of intensive care beds are occupied, additional restrictions would be implemented.
They would include the closing of shops and markets on Sundays, and strict capacity limits would be imposed.
As was the case in the spring, the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses would be asked to stay at home.
If the R-rate is over 1.2 on December 28th, or if more than 90 percent of the intensive care beds are occupied, a ‘partial shutdown’ — the closing of shops in addition to measures outlined in scenarios 1 and 2 — would be ordered.
If this were to happen, cantons could decide to implement one of the two options:
One would provide exemptions for shops where at least two-thirds of the turnover comes from food and other essential goods. The Sunday sales ban would be lifted for these stores.
The second alternative would be to allow only the stores selling food to open. Shops that also offer other products would have to cover the appropriate shelves, as was done during the shutdown in March and April. The Sunday sales ban would also be lifted for these retailers.
Personal services such as hairdressers, tattoo studios, and physiotherapy would not be affected by the restrictions. They would still be allowed to operate with protective measures in place.
The closure of the ski areas is also not part of the package of measures.
However, the federal government said it would be difficult to justify that the ski areas should remain open despite shop closings.
Where are R-rates highest and lowest right now?
Antoine Flahault, director of the Global Health Institute at University of Geneva said R-rate is highest — 1.17 — in the canton of Appenzell-Innerrhoden.
Next are Bern (1.12), Basel-Country (1.10) and Zurich (1.09).
The R-rate in Aargau, Luzerne, Graubünden, and Thurgau is 1.08.
The lowest rates are in Valais and Geneva — 0,77 and 0,83 respectively.