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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
Price of train tickets was among those the price supervisor looked into. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Online vaccination platform closed due to security breach

The / website, which allows people to create an electronic version of their paper vaccination record, was closed after a news site described massive flaws in the platform’s security.

The Federal Data Protection Officer has opened an enquiry into the charges.

Officials believe that data of about 450,000 registered users, including 240,000 who were vaccinated against Covid, may be compromised and potentially exploited by criminals.

This security breach  “is likely to infringe on the rights of a large number of people, especially since it concerns sensitive health data”, officials said.

Price supervisor handled over 1,500 disputes last year

Stefan Meierhans, head of the government’s monitoring office responsible for studying and identifying abuses in the costs of goods and services, said he handled 1,588 price disputes in 2020.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for products like face masks, disinfectants and ethanol increased sharply last spring, causing prices to skyrocket.

This was especially the case in the health sector (18 percent of all complaints), public transportation (14 percent) and telecommunications (8.5 percent).

READ MORE: ‘Fair prices’: Switzerland moves one step closer to referendum on cost of living

Children’s Covid testing criteria same as adults’

Starting today, the test criteria for symptomatic children from 6 years of age will be the same as for adults.

This means that in the event of cough, sore throat, breathing difficulties, chest pain, fever, muscle pain and headaches, young kids will be systematically tested for coronavirus. Until now, only children 12 years and older have been tested using the same criteria as adults.

Health authorities said testing of children in that age group will help track the circulation of the virus in the population.

On the move again: the Swiss are more mobile

After the easing of some restrictions in early March, the Swiss are commuting more often.

Despite the unchanged obligation of teleworking, the trips between the home and the place of employment are also increasing, according to a government report on the mobility of Switzerland’s population.

This was the case, for example, in February, where many people went skiing during the winter holidays. The increased mobility this month can be attributed to the reopening of the shops on March 1st, the report found.

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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.