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

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 Friday
Prople carrying Jura flag demonstrated in Moutier after the seccession vote was nufflified in 2017. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

The number of coronavirus infections increases significantly

From March 15th to 21st, a total of 10,481 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported, up from 8,803 the week before — an increase of over 19 percent, according to the weekly report from the Federal Office of Public Health.

The proportion of virus mutations was 85 percent in the 4,135 samples analysed. The British variant was by far the most frequent.

The incidence of laboratory-confirmed cases in the cantons ranged from 37 cases per 100,000 inhabitants per week in Appenzell Innerrhodes to 202 in Uri.

The infection rates continued to go up this week, in what some health experts believe could signal the third wave of the pandemic.

Swiss cities to join symbolic lights-out event

Twelve towns in Switzerland will join cities around the world in dimming lights on their monuments to celebrate Earth Hour, an annual event that brings attention to climate and environmental crisis.

Monuments and other landmarks will go dark on Saturday between 8:30 pm and 9:30 pm in the following cities: Baden (AG), Bulle (FR), Ennetbaden (AG), Fribourg, Geneva, Lausanne, Lenzburg (AG), Le Locle (NE), Montreux (VD), Neuchâtel, Rapperswil-Jona (SG), and Uster (ZH)

The Swiss are in favour of giving more rights to foreigners

Switzerland’s population supports more rights for foreign nationals living in the country, in particular the right to family reunification, according to a new study by the Federal Statistical Office.

 More than two-thirds of study participants said that non-nationals are essential for Swiss economy.

However, a third of the respondents said they feel uncomfortable in the presence of foreigners, the study found.

The Local will publish an article on this topic today.

READ MORE:  Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?

Swiss town may switch cantons

On Sunday, residents of Moutier will cast their votes again on whether to remain in the predominantly German-speaking canton Bern or to join the neighbouring canton of Jura, which is French-speaking.

The town of just 7,700 people already voted in 2017 to become part of Jura but the results were nullified amid suspicions of voter fraud.

As the issue is controversial and emotional for many locals, municipal authorities are calling on residents to stay calm after the vote results are announced.

To avoid conflict on Sunday between the pro-Bernese and pro-Jura factions, officials have set up two separate areas on opposite sides of town and are calling on each group to “respect this division of the city and not cross the dividing line”.

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.