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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
Swiss president calls for a minute of silence to honor victims of Covid. Photo by SEBASTIEN SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

Today: Church bells and a minute of silence in tribute to victims of Covid-19

At 11:59 am, church bells will ring across Switzerland, followed by a minute of silence to honor the memory of the nearly 9,300 people who died from coronavirus in Switzerland.

Swiss president Guy Parmelin chose this day for the tribute to mark the one-year anniversary since the pandemic claimed its first victim in Switzerland, a 74-year-old woman who died in Vaud on March 5th, 2020. 

“A moment of mourning and reflection, the minute’s silence should also allow us to focus on the solidarity and friendship. These are the elements that will enable us to move forward, to look to the future and overcome the crisis” Parmelin said.

READ MORE: What has changed in Switzerland since the first Covid-19 case was detected?

For the first time in 2021, the number of Covid cases has increased

During the week of February 22th to 28th, there were 251 more confirmed infections than the week before, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)  reported.

This is the biggest increase since December 2020.

Some 7,235 cases were reported, compared to 6,984 the week before, an increase of 3.6 percent.

The incidence rate also went up from 81.8 to 83.7 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. The highest is in Neuchâtel with 146.7 /100,000, though this number has dropped considerably in one week, from 191.5

One in five Swiss restaurants went out of business

A recent survey of restaurant and hotel sectors shows that nearly 20 percent of establishments in gastronomy and hospitality industry had to close their doors due to prolonged closures. Another 20 percent are on the verge of doing so.

The survey was conducted by the industry association GastroSuisse, which also found that nearly half of the applicants in the sector who have filed a request for financial help have been waiting for a response for several weeks. Currently, non-refundable contributions cover significantly less than 10 percent of the turnover. 

Switzerland’s 10 favourite employers

The Handelszeitung newspaper has conducted a survey to find out which companies in Switzerland are most employee-friendly.

All the firms are Swiss and several are family-owned.

Soft drink company Rivella took the top spot, followed by lift manufacturer Schindler in the second place, the Swiss Paraplegic Group (3), Chocolate Frey (4), Rigi mountain transportation (5), Patek Philippe watch manufacturer (6), World Wildlife Fund WWF (7), Anliker construction (8),  Breitling watches (9), and Rhätische Bahn railways (10).

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.