Reader question: Will vaccinated people have special privileges in Switzerland?

From travel to visiting restaurants and playing sport, allowing vaccinated people certain privileges might edge Switzerland back towards normality.

Reader question: Will vaccinated people have special privileges in Switzerland?
It's not yer sure what benefits vaccinated people will receive. Photo by AFP

As at least 10 percent of Switzerland’s population has already been vaccinated — and more inoculations are taking place every day — the question of special perks for those who have had their shots is a pertinent one.

The idea has already gained favour in other countries such as Israel, which has had one of the world's most aggressive vaccination efforts. 

But in Switzerland, the answer depends on where you live — and some other factors too.

Graubünden is the first — and so far the only — canton that has implemented a programme of giving privileges to vaccinated residents.

For instance, anyone who has received both doses of the vaccine, along with anyone who has contracted the virus in the past three months and has recovered, may be allowed to avoid the quarantine requirements. 

READ MORE: Can vaccinated people avoid Switzerland's quarantine requirement? 

No other canton to date had introduced a similar exemption, but the topic raises both practical and ethical issues, and is likely to become even more relevant as increasing numbers of people get vaccinated.

This issue is also debated on the federal level.

The Health Ministry has put this question to the Federal Council this week — what, if any, benefits can be granted to those who are inoculated? Should vaccinated people be exempted from the quarantine and other Covid-19 restrictions? Should restaurants be allowed to advertise that only those who have been vaccinated are allowed inside?

The government will seek the opinion of the National Ethics Committee in Human Medicine (CNE), according to Switzerland's Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper. 

“In general, the CNE believes that inequalities in treatment favouring vaccinated people could only be justified if the vaccination also protects against the transmission of the virus and if all people wishing to be vaccinated have access to it”, the committee said on its website. 

The CNE added that “it may be justified, under appropriate conditions, to lift certain restrictions for vaccinated people and to require a vaccination certificate for certain activities of daily living”.

The ethics committee also makes a distinction between several situations. It considers that lifting the quarantine requirement and the limit on the number of people allowed to gather together is justifiable for the vaccinated.

It is also legitimate for airlines to request proof of vaccination, especially since it is difficult to ensure a “sufficiently safe environment for all travellers” on long flights, CNE noted.

Bern is already working on a regulation concerning these “advantages” offered to vaccinated people, as confirmed by Ingrid Ryser, spokesperson for the Federal Office of Justice. 

“This the subject of intensive discussions within the federal administration”, she said.
An initial analysis of the legal situation was carried out before Christmas, and discussions are now underway with the federal data protection officials.

The Federal Office of Justice is examining “possible regulations aimed at excluding unequal treatment, as well as regulations explicitly allowing this same unequal treatment.”

While legal implications of such a move are being examined, on the economical political level opinions vary.

Economiesuisse, an association of business groups, said that the state should no longer impose restrictions on the economic and personal freedoms of vaccinated people. For instance, major events such as sports or rock concerts would be permitted again, but only for those who have coronavirus immunity.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party rejects “state discrimination” against unvaccinated people, especially as long as there is not enough vaccine available for everyone.

“Privileges for vaccinated people would also mean compulsory vaccination through the back door,” according to party president Marco Chiesa.

He also pointed out that privileging only inoculated people would be discriminatory against those who have already contracted Covid and have developed immunity.

Chiesa added that it is acceptable for private businesses to provide certain benefits to vaccinated individuals.

However, such special treatment can’t be offered by state-funded establishments.

Interestingly, a survey carried out by Tamedia newspapers at the end of November 2020 showed that majority of SVP supporters did not want to be vaccinated.

The trend is opposite within the Green Party, where the majority said to be pro-vaccine.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Which Swiss cantons are vaccinating fastest against coronavirus?




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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”