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

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 Tuesday
No systematic checks at Swiss-Italian border. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Swiss-German cantons call for total re-opening of restaurants

Four cantons in the German-speaking part of Switzerland have come together to urge the Federal Council to fully re-open restaurants on March 22nd, not just the outdoor seating areas, as is currently planned.

In a joint statement addressed to the federal authorities, the neighbouring cantons of St. Gallen, Thurgau, Appenzell Innerrhoden and Appenzell Ausserrhoden said number of people allowed inside the restaurant “should be in relation to the surface and the ventilation measures”.

They also said that for both outdoor and indoor areas, thy would enforce compulsory seating, a maximum of four people per table, contact data collection from all diners, and a 1.5-metre distance between tables.

Working from home to continue until April

The obligation to work from home whenever possible, which was introduced on January 18th, will be in place at least until April.

At that time, the measure could be relaxed, in particular for the companies which carry out regular Covid tests on their employees.

Swiss President Guy Parmelin called the home office obligation a “decisive element in the slowdown in the number of coronavirus cases”, the reason for which the government wants to maintain this obligation for as long as economically feasible.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the rules of Switzerland’s obligation to work from home?

Switzerland will not step up border checks at Italian border

As the Lombardy region of Italy is now in the red zone due to a surge in the number of Covid cases, Ticino officials asked federal authorities to strengthen controls at the border.

However, head of the Federal Department of Justice and Police, Karin Keller Sutter, said Switzerland will not implement systematic checks at the Italian border. 

This decision prompted criticism from Ticino’s Lega party, which “strongly condemns the scandalous indifference of the Federal Council”.

 It noted that “already a year ago, Ticino suffered the first pandemic wave precisely because of the free movement of people from Lombardy”.

The Local will publish today an article about the situation at all Switzerland’s borders.

Women in Switzerland will retire later

Despite opposition from the left-wing parties, the Council of States voted to raise the retirement age for women from 64 to 65 — same as for men.

This move is expected to achieve 1.4 billion in savings in the social security (AHV/AVS pensions) by 2030.

In the future, early retirement will be a possibility for everyone from the age of 63, and it will be possible for both sexes to work until the age of 70.

The Federal Council has been working on reforming the current pension system for several years, including raising the retirement age for women.

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.