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

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 Monday
Restaurant terraces may re-open next week if health situation allows it. Photo by TOLGA-AKMEN / AFP

Restaurants may re-open next week

The Federal Council decided restaurant and bar terraces can re-open on March 22nd if the epidemiological situation allows it.  If it does happen, maximum of four guests per table will be allowed and data collection from each person will be required.

Reopening of cinemas, theaters, and concert halls, with up to 50 spectators (and a maximum of one-third of the capacity), will be permitted as long as attendees are masked, and an empty seat is between each person.

Outdoor events can take place with up to 150 spectators.

Gatherings in private indoor space will be allowed for up to 10 people.

Fitness facilities will re-open as well, but swimming pools and spas will remain closed.

Final decision on these re-openings will be made on March 19th.

READ MORE: Rising infection rates put Switzerland’s March reopening plans in jeopardy

Don’t put away your winter coats yet

Although the official start of the spring season is only days away, warm weather is not expected in the immediate future.

The storm ‘Luis’, which has swept through Switzerland in the past few days with gale-force winds, will usher in a cold front, according to MeteoSwiss weather service.

Temperatures will be “well below” seasonal norms and the low pressure will continue until mid-week. Periods of snowfall are expected at least until Wednesday, meteorologists predict.

Switzerland is lagging behind other European countries in rate of vaccinations

Despite having ordered 35 million vaccines from four different manufacturers, Switzerland lags behind many nations in Europe when it comes to the number of vaccines administered per 100,000 residents.

European statistics platform Statista shows that with 10.96 inoculations per 100,000, Switzerland is in the 15th place, below the UK (35.9),  Scandinavian countries, some states in Eastern Europe, as well as Spain, Cyprus, Greece, and Malta.

However, Switzerland is ahead of its neighbours Austria, France, Italy, and Germany. 

Zurich police warn about fake Covid-19 vaccine certificates

Flyers circulating in Zurich promise fraudulent vaccination cards for a 99-franc fee instead of the official price of 169 francs. The payment is to be made in Bitcoins.

The flyers that are put into private mailboxes say that those who pay will be issued documents certifying that they have received shots against Covid and are therefore immune to the virus.

The authors claim that the certificate will entitle the holders to “more privileges”.

Police said investigations into the identity of the authors are under way, adding that anyone who buys and uses these false certificates would be liable for prosecution.

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.