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HEALTH

What stricter coronavirus measures is the Swiss government considering?

Switzerland is considering a range of stricter coronavirus measures. What is currently on the table?

What stricter coronavirus measures is the Swiss government considering?

NOTE: Switzerland announced will go into a stricter lockdown from January 18th. More information is available here. 

Switzerland on Wednesday decided it will extend coronavirus measures, including the continued closure of bars, restaurants, gyms and museums, until the end of February.

At the announcement, Swiss authorities said they had put a number of stricter measures to the cantons for consultation. 

These could be adopted nationwide, or they could be put in place in specific cantons if the situation deteriorates. 

READ MORE: What are Switzerland's current coronavirus shutdown measures?

A decision on whether to adopt some or all of these measures will be made on Wednesday, January 13th. 

What measures has the Swiss government proposed? 

Health Minister Alain Berset has put forward a number of stricter measures to cut the spread of the virus in the cantons. 

While these have not yet been approved, they are currently being debated by the federal and cantonal authorities. 

Obligation to work from home

Working from home has been 'recommended' for anyone who can do so in Switzerland since October. 

One option being considered is to require everyone who can work from home to do so all across Switzerland. 

Currently, only the canton of Thurgau has put in place such a requirement. 

READ: Why is Switzerland set to extend coronavirus measures?

Swiss media reports that “further restrictions in the workplace” are also being considered, although there have been no concrete indications as to what this will be. 

Closure of all non-essential shops

One approach being considered is the closure of all non-essential shops – defined as “shops that do not sell everyday goods”. 

This approach was adopted during the first wave of the virus in the Spring of 2020. 

School closures

One further approach being considered is to close compulsory schools. 

While the government has not provided express guidance on how this could take place, Swiss media reports that this is unlikely to happen at a federal level. 

Instead, closures are likely on a canton-to-canton basis. 

Further restrictions on gatherings in public and private

Another possible change would be to further limit the number of people that can meet in public or in private in Switzerland. 

Currently, gatherings in public spaces are capped at 15 people, while a maximum of ten people can meet in private with friends and family. 

Extra protections for vulnerable people

One suggestion made in the Swiss media is that additional protections could be introduced to protect the most vulnerable in society, however no specific examples were given about how this will be pursued. 

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COVID-19

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.

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