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

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 Tuesday
Shortage of vaccines is delaying the inoculation program. Photo by AFP

Mutated virus infections are on the rise

The number of infections with variants of the coronavirus continues to increase in Switzerland: as of Monday, 4,138 cases had been observed, Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports. That's 646 more than on Friday. 

Of these infections, 1621 are from the British variant of the virus (and 69 from the South African mutation. For the other 2,448 cases, the mutation couldn’t be determined.

A reward for catching poster vandals

Andreas Glarner, a deputy from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is offering a 2,000-franc reward to anyone who helps identify or catch people who vandalise the party’s posters in support of the anti-burqa referendum.

These posters, placed in public spaces ahead of the March 7th referendum, are systematically damaged, he said.

Uncertainty over Covid vaccine supply disrupts the inoculation programme

Because the delivery of both Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines is either delayed or supplied in smaller numbers than expected, appointments for the second injection within the time limits prescribed by the health-authorities — that is, four weeks after the first dose — are becoming rare.

READ MORE: Jobs in Switzerland: Which sectors have been hardest hit by the pandemic?

In some cantons, like Vaud, second doses are now routinely scheduled six weeks after the first, though health authorities say the delay will not affect the safety or efficacy of the vaccine. 

What's coming up?

It's the winter holidays in Switzerland soon but is anyone actually allowed to go on holiday? And what are the rules and recommendations? We'll be looking into this subject today so keep an eye on the site.

What you might have missed…

There has been a lot of talk about the coronavirus vaccine rollout in Switzerland, but what happens when you show up for your appointment and are ready to roll up your sleeve.

In this article The Local Switzerland journalist Helena Bachmann, who has received her first injection, explains the process.

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And if you have any questions about the news in Switzerland or indeed about anything to do with Switzerland and life in the country then please contact our journalists at [email protected]

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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.