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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
There's concern that hospitals will become saturated again. Phorto by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Strong reactions to extended restaurant closures

After government’s announcement on Friday that restaurants will remain closed for the time being — despite widespread expectations they would re-open on March 22nd — business associations and some political parties expressed disappointment at the Federal Council’s decision.

The Local will publish an article today about the reactions that the decisions sparked in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Switzerland to extend measures to fight Covid-19 ‘third wave’

Business groups demand a digital Coronavirus Pass by summer

In a joint letter to the Federal Council, EconomieSuisse, Gastrosuisse, as well as USS and USAM trade unions  call for several measures to get the country out of the pandemic as quickly as possible.

These measures include vaccination as well as steps to ensure that everyone who wants to is inoculated by July.

Another measure is free, large-scale testing, along with ensuring more security in the supply of drugs and medical equipment, and digital Covid pass, required to participate in major sporting, outdoor and other large events.

Calls for a digital passport are growing. Photo by AFP

Hospitals face new bottlenecks because of coronaskeptics

A new wave of unvaccinated Covid patients is expected in Swiss hospitals in the summer, health authorities say.

In order to achieve herd immunity, about 80 percent of the whole population should be inoculated. But given high number of anti-vaxxers – people who are opposed to vaccinations – outbreaks will continue to happen and hospitals are expected to experience an influx of patients suffering from corona-related complications.

A survey conducted by the Link research institute shows that only one in four people in French-speaking Switzerland want to be vaccinated. The number is higher among German-speaking people, where one in two is ready to get the shot.

The Swiss are among the happiest people in earth

Switzerland was named the third happiest country in the world, after Finland and Denmark, in a global study co-sponsored by the United Nations.

Although the annual study has been conducted since 2012, this is the first year researchers focused on the effects of Covid-19 on the quality of people’s lives, the authors said.

You can see the ranking of all countries here.

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.