Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Monday

Find out what's going on in Switzerland today with The Local's short round-up of the news.

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Monday
Could foreigners have the right to vote in Switzerland? Photo by AFP

New travel and quarantine rules go into effect

Starting today, stricter regulations will apply for travellers arriving from abroad by air. They will have to show a recent negative Covid test before taking off for Switzerland. 

In addition, personal information of almost all travelers will now be systematically recorded, whether they arrive by plane, boat, bus or train.

The 10-day quarantine could now be reduced to seven days under certain circumstances. 

The Local will write a detailed article about the new requirements today.

Shutdown measures could be extended until summer

Originally, the closings of restaurants, bars and all non-essential businesses were supposed to end on February 28. But last week it was reported that these measures were not likely to be lifted until sometime in March.

But the Health Ministry is now considering extending the current shutdown measures until the summer to slow down the spread of coronavirus mutations, according to media reports.  

The decision is expected later this month.

Swiss women to be commemorated on gold coins

Swissmint, the federal currency agency, announced the issue of a gold coin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of women’s suffrage in Switzerland. It will be available for sale at the end of April at the price of 680 francs.

This 50-franc coin has a diameter of 25 mm, is made of 0.900 gold alloy and weighs 11.29 grams. About 5,000 copies will be produced and can be purchased from the Swissmint website. 



Foreigners' right to vote

Socialist deputies Ada Marra (VD) and Mustafa Atici (BS) are preparing a parliamentary initiative to demand the right to vote and to be elected for foreigners at the municipal level after five years of residence in Switzerland. 

The cantons of Fribourg, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura already allow non-citizens to vote, elect officials, and stand for election at communal level. Conditions vary from one canton to another, but in most cases a certain length of stay and/or a residence permit are required.

Geneva, which has the largest foreign population in Switzerland (45 percent), grants foreigners voting rights at communal level, but they can't run for office. 

Basel, Graubünden, and Appenzell Ausserrhoden have authorised their communes to introduce the right to vote, the right to elect and the right to be elected. But few of the communes have actually introduced these measures.




Member comments

  1. Where are the vaccines? What is the schedule for vaccination of each age group? Extending restrictions until Summer is nuts.

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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.