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SWITZERLAND

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

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

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Friday
Vaud wants its restaurants to be able to serve lunch as of March 15th. Photo by AFP

Vaud in favour of re-opening restaurants from March 15th

Authorities in Vaud want the restaurants to open at noon from March 15th for lunch service and close at 6 pm, at which time only take-away service would be allowed.

This is contrary to decisions made by the Federal Council on Wednesday, which ordered restaurants to be closed until April 1st at the earliest.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new 'relaxed' coronavirus measures? 

Vaud authorities said the Federal Council has not taken into account that the vaccination programme is protecting “almost all vulnerable people”, which should allow the limited re-opening of restaurants from March 15th.

The Federal Council will consult with the cantons regarding its new measures on February 24th.

March will be a good time for discounted purchases 

When all shops re-open on March 1st, Swiss consumers will be able to find many items for bargain prices.

Although some retailers have sold their goods online, many are sitting on seasonal merchandise they were not able to sell during the shutdown. They will now slash their prices “to have money in the till and be able to pay their bills”, as reported in Blick. 

Sports shops in particular will offer winter items at bargain prices, as will furniture stores, some of which already advertise discounts of up to 70 percent on their stocks.

Rumantsch: in ferm toc Svizra

In case you’re wondering, this means ‘Romansh: a strong piece of Switzerland’.

This is the motto of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), as Switzerland will celebrate a week dedicated to the fourth national language starting on February 20th.


FDFA

This is commemoration of February 20th, 1938, when Romansh was granted the status of an official language by referendum, on equal footing with German, French and Italian. From 2022 onwards, the Romansh week will be a fixed point in the calendar in February.

Only about 60,000 people, mostly in canton Graubünden, still speak Romansh. 
 

Spring weather is here, at long last

After weeks of bitter cold, with temperatures dipping below -10 degrees Celsiuis in some parts of the country, heavy snowfall and a number of deadly avalanches in the mountains, a warmer, milder weather is expected in the coming days.

Temperatures could reach 17 degrees or higher in the plains as well as high altitudes, meteorologists predict.

The zero degree limit will initially rise to around 3,000 metres on Saturday and to 3,500 metres on Sunday.

This warming may affect the families who are going to ski at lower altitudes during the February holidays. 

 

 


 

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SWITZERLAND

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. 

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