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

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 Friday
Eating in outdoor restaurants is allowed in some cantons. Photo by JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP

Switzerland ranks highly in technological preparedness

Switzerland is in the second place out of 158 countries in terms of advanced technologies, according to a ranking released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

Among other criteria rated by the index, Switzerland ranked third on industrial and financial issues, seventh for new technologies, but only 13th for skills and innovative research.

Last week, Switzerland took the number 1 spot in UNCTAD’s digital commerce ranking. 

Switzerland to approve a new vaccine to fill shortage

A single-dose coronavirus vaccine from US manufacturer Johnson & Johnson is expected to be approved in Switzerland in March, Swiss media reported.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has reportedly been negotiating with the manufacturer since January, but has not yet said when the order will be placed or how many doses will be purchased.

The Local will publish an update today about the state of Switzerland’s vaccination programme.

Defying federal ban, some cantons allow outdoor dining in ski areas

Even though large groups of people are not allowed to congregate either inside or outdoors, restaurant terraces in several ski areas continue to be open.

This is the case of Ticino, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schwyz and Uri. Even though this is against the rules, skiers who bring their own food are allowed to sit down to eat at tables.

Although the terraces are often crowded, especially around lunchtime, health officials in these cantons say protective measures like distances on terraces and around the take-out areas are respected.

READ MORE: Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers 

Workers will have access to restaurants at lunchtime

People who work outdoors in sectors including agriculture and construction will now be able to have a hot meal in company restaurants between 11 am and 2 pm each weekday, the Federal Office of Public Health announced.

There have been repeated calls for canteens to open their doors to workers who spend hours outdoors in cold weather or rain, without a possibility of having a proper sit-down meal.

Should second-class train passengers be allowed to sit in first class?

This switch should be permitted during the pandemic, according to the youth section of the Socialist Party.

The group argues that while second-class carriages are often full, few people are sitting in the first-class, so passengers should be allowed to move from one section of the train to another.

“In exceptional circumstances, exceptional measures: there is no reason to pay the upgrade during a pandemic. It makes no sense that certain vehicles are lightly occupied, to the detriment of others “, the group said.

Swiss Federal Railways have not yet responded to the request, but the socialists’ previous calls for the abolition of first-class carriages which, they claim, are symbols of  social inequality, had been denied.

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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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.