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SWITZERLAND

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

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

A commission said testing should be done every two weeks. Photo by AFP
AFP

Swiss politician wants babies to have the right to vote

Michael Felber, a deputy in canton Zug, has proposed that babies, toddlers, and young children should be able to cast their votes in municipal and cantonal referendums, even though they can’t read, write, or understand political implications of their decisions.

Concretely, parents would each receive half a vote on their child’s behalf. Felber said a system “will guarantee greater generational justice in the democratic process”.  

As far-fetched as this idea may seem, Felber is not the first  MP to raise this issue.  In 2009, a similar idea was launched in canton Lucerne, but it didn’t generate much interest.

Army will sell its expired medical supplies

Swiss military will sell the merchandise it bought for the health system at the beginning of the Covid pandemic in 2020. 

Batches of FFP2 / FFP3 masks, disinfectant, and other medical supplies, which will soon reach their expiration date, will be sold “at greatly reduced prices” to the cantons, municipalities and healthcare establishments.

On request, the masks will be given free of charge to Swiss aid organisations.

The army routinely sells to the public its out-of-service equipment such as vehicles and technical gear.

Army is selling expired hand disinfectants and other medical material. Photo by AFP

Public should be tested every two weeks, health experts say

A parliamentary health commission is proposing that every resident of Switzerland have a Covid test every two weeks as a way out of the shutdown.

The commission said that such frequent testing would prevent the spread of coronavirus more effectively than at present.

It is now up to the Federal Council to examine whether it could finance such a massive expansion of the testing scheme.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How does Switzerland’s mass testing scheme work?

Trains and buses can’t restrict the number of passengers

While having less people on public transportation during the pandemic would help maintain distance between passengers,  such limits can’t be imposed.

On public transport access can’t be restricted precisely because it is a public entity, said Ueli Stückelberger, head of the Association of Public Transport. 

However, some transport companies are using additional trains or buses, “so that passengers can spread out as much as possible”, Stückelberger said.

He also stressed that customers “should try to avoid full trains”, to lessen the risk of infection, even though masks are compulsory on public transportation.

What’s coming up:

February 25th marks the one-year anniversary of the first confirmed Covid-19 case in Switzerland — the case that quickly led to a full-blown health crisis.

The Local will write an article on Thursday about how Switzerland has been weathering the pandemic.

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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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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