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

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 Thursday
A man signing a consent form while holding the International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP). Photo: JENS SCHLUETER / AFP

Switzerland to join EU’s vaccination certificate programme

The EU Commission presented its proposal for a vaccination card, which should be ready before summer.

Brussels wants to include Switzerland in this project, based on the bilateral agreement on the free movement of persons. What is needed from Switzerland is a system that is compatible with the EU’s platform, officials said.

National Councilor Regine Sauter, who launched the debate in this subject in the Swiss parliament, said it is crucial for Switzerland to take action, or “we will end up on the sidelines, while the citizens of other countries have long been allowed to travel freely again”.

Swiss approach should be compatible with the EU’s, she noted. “It is essential that the vaccination certificate is recognized in international travel”.

READ MORE: ‘Green pass’: European Commission to propose EU-wide vaccine passports for summer

Ban on tobacco advertisement debated in the parliament

Currently, tobacco advertising is only prohibited on radio and television, but MPs decided to extend the ban to newspapers and websites visited by minors.

However, the National Council has opted for a  less restrictive option: to ban advertising only in media intended for children under 18. Advertising should be prohibited in cinemas and in public spaces, as well as on signs visible from the public domain.

Parliament has been debating the new tobacco law, which should allow Switzerland to ratify a WHO convention, since 2016.

SWISS airline gives away its chocolates

It’s a tradition that passengers flying with Switzerland’s flagship airline receive a chocolate at the end of each flight. But with fewer flights and fewer passengers during the pandemic, less chocolate has been distributed.  Nearly half a million are about to expire.

That’s why the airline has decided to give away 440,000 chocolates not just to passengers, but also to employees, airport suppliers, and charities.

During the first Covid-19 wave last year, SWISS gave its surplus chocolates to healthcare workers.

Ascona (TI) imposes a mask requirement outdoors

Since Ticino has traditionally been the most popular destination for Swiss tourists during Easter holidays, the canton and municipalities want to avoid new outbreaks of coronavirus.

To protect the health of tourists as well as local population, Ascona is the first municipality in Ticino to make masks compulsory outdoors.

The situation is expected to be different than at Easter in 2020, when Ticino was one of the hardest-hit cantons due to its proximity to Italy, where the pandemic began. At that time, Ticino authorities urged tourists to “stay away”.

This year, cantonal officials are calling on municipalities to keep waterfront promenades and city parks open during Easter. 

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.