SHARE
COPY LINK

COVID-19

What tougher coronavirus rules could Switzerland announce this week?

In the draft ordinance submitted to the cantons, the Swiss government outlines tougher measures it wants to implement to curb the spread of Covid-19.

What tougher coronavirus rules could Switzerland announce this week?
All non-essential businesses may soon close. Photo by AFP

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

Authorities announced last week they would extend current restrictions from January 22nd until the end of February. 

But the final decision will be made on Wednesday, after consultation with the cantons.

“The epidemiological situation remains tense: the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths, as well as the burden on health workers, remains very high,” the government said in a statement.

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland set to extend coronavirus measures?

The Swiss media, which got access to the draft documents, reports that stricter measures would include the closure of all businesses except the essential ones, until the end of February. 

This means all the retailers, with the exception of pharmacies and shops selling food, would have to close, along with personal services like hairdressers and beauty parlours. The measures would be similar to the partial shutdown that was in force during the first wave of the pandemic last spring.

Also, working from home would become compulsory whenever possible.

If remote working is not an option, then masks will be mandatory inside buildings, as soon as several people are present in the same room, even if the safety distances of 1.5 metres can be respected.

Bern is proposing these stricter measures as it expects a sharp increase in the number of cases of patients infected with the UK variant of the virus. It could represent 30 percent of contaminations within the next five weeks, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said.

The mutated variant, believed to have first appeared in the London and Kent areas of the UK in September 2020, is reported to be up to 70 percent more contagious than other strains.

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 10 people can meet in private with friends and family.

Since December 22nd, restaurants and bars, as well as sports, cultural and leisure facilities, had been closed.

However, delivery and take-out services remain possible. Company and school canteens, as well as hotel restaurants, are also continuing their activities for the time being.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current coronavirus measures?

 

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