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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.

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Wednesday
Households saved less money during second shutdown. Photo by Depositphotos

Right-wing politician campaigns against dual-national MPs

Marco Chiesa, president of Swiss People’s Party (SVP), said he doubts the loyalty of deputies who hold dual citizenships and has drafted a parliamentary initiative entitled “Transparency in the disclosure of nationalities”.

He wants all elected officials who have foreign passports in addition to the Swiss ones to publicly divulge their bi-national status.

The initiative is sparking controversy in the parliament.

The UK coronavirus variant is dominant in Switzerland

Coronavirus variants are now largely dominant in Switzerland, accounting for 80 percent of new infections detected in the country,  according to the crisis management section of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

“The British variant represents the bulk of these strains, while the South African and Brazilian variants are not encountered as often”, said FOPH’s Patrick Mathys.

“The UK virus will cause more contamination than the other variants”, Mathys added.

People in Switzerland saved less money during the second lockdown

Swiss residents set aside much less money during the second wave of pandemic than during the first, a report by Credit Suisse bank found.

Swiss households saved an average of 880 francs during the second confinement, against around 3,000 francs during the first one in spring 2020.

And some households have not been able to save at all, or have even been forced to dip into their savings, the report noted.

The money set aside during the 2020 lockdown was spent after the restrictions were lifted; until the start of the second wave, consumer spending had almost returned to its pre-crisis level in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s economy is on the up despite the coronavirus pandemic

Politicians are calling for a Holocaust memorial in Bern

More than 100 national councilors, including all parliamentary group presidents, have signed a motion spearheaded by MP Alfred Heer to have a memorial commemorating Jewish victims of Nazism built in the country’s capital.

“The catastrophe that National Socialism wreaked in Europe must not be forgotten, especially among young people”, Heer said.

The memorial is to be financed and supported by the federal government, with the support of the cantons and municipalities, the Swiss Association of Israelites said.

Concrete proposals will be presented to the public in May.

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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.