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

Find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Monday
Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP

Canton of Jura gets a new city

Moutier, a town of 7,700 people, voted on Sunday to switch cantons.

In a historic vote, 54.9 percent of town residents said ‘yes’ to leaving canton Bern and ‘moving’ to French-speaking Jura.  

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.

Tightening of coronavirus measures a possibility

For many health experts, a third wave of Covid-19 is a certainty, the only question is how severe it will be.

“Nobody wants to hear about further restrictions,” said Jan Fehr, head of the Public & Global Health Department at the University of Zurich.

“But from a purely epidemiological point of view, it would be almost a miracle if the number of cases were to decline under the current measures. On the contrary: everything points to a significant increase “.

“We will have to – hopefully one last time – bite the bullet and tighten the measures”, he added.

Testing on the rise – but positivity increasing as well

Testing has been free in almost all cases in Switzerland for two weeks. 

According to numbers published by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health, testing has been on the rise

Averaging roughly 30,000 tests per day over the past few weeks, Switzerland has tested upwards of 40,000 people per day on several occasions over the past two weeks. 

READ MORE: Where can you get tested for Covid-19 in your Swiss canton for free?

Testing is expected to increase further in the lead up to Easter. 

Despite the increase in testing, the test positivity rate has also risen slightly, from five percent to 5.3 percent. 

The test positivity rate refers to the percentage of positive tests out of the whole number of tests carried out. 

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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.