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

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 Thursday
Swiss hospitals are ready to accept French patients. Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

Switzerland among nations targeted by fraudulent vaccine offers

Criminals are offering Swiss and European health officials large quantities of Covid vaccines at exorbitant prices, by promising to negotiate contracts between pharmaceutical companies and public authorities.

“This is a scam: contracts are never honored”, Claire Georges, a spokesperson for the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), told Switzerland’s public broadcaster RTS.

To date, no Swiss canton has fallen for the multi-million-franc scam.

“We assume that if someone accepts these offers, sellers will disappear once the money is paid and no vaccine is going to be delivered”, said Nicolas Fotinis from Switzerland’s drug verificaton agency, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: How to avoid the most common online scams in Switzerland

France asks Switzerland to take in Covid-19 patients

France’s Bourgogne-Franche Comté region, which is experiencing an increase in the number of coronavirus cases, has asked French-speaking cantons to accept critical patients in case local hospitals become saturated.

In response, health ministers of Jura and Fribourg said  their cantons will take in French Covid patients in the event hospitals across the border become overcrowded, and provided there is sufficient space in intensive care units.

At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, Swiss hospitals had already taken in 30 coronavirus patients from France, especially from Franche-Comté and Grand Est regions, whose medical facilities were saturated. 

Third Covid wave affects younger people

The age of patients hospitalised with coronavirus has been falling for several weeks, according to an analysis by RTS public broadcaster based on figures from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

The proportion of patients over the age 80, who made up more than a third of patients during the second wave, has been dropping since mid-February, RTS found.

Patients between 60 and 69 now represent the highest proportion of new hospital admissions: around 25 percent, compared to 18 percent this winter. There are also more hospitalisations among people aged 30 to 59.

This trend could be explained by the fact that older groups were the first to be vaccinated, so they have developed immunity to the virus. On the other hand, younger people who have not yet had their shots, are exposed to the more contagious British variant, which now represents 90 percent of all cases in Switzerland, FOPH said.  

Optimism for Switzerland’s post-pandemic recovery

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects a 3.5-percent rebound in Switzerland’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2021.

It said Switzerland’s economy absorbed the shock of the pandemic better than other European countries, as its GDP fell to only 2.9 percent in 2020.

“Switzerland has navigated the Covid-19 pandemic well”, said IMF assistant director Mark Horton.

He added that Switzerland’s “early, strong, and sustained public health and economic policy response has helped contain the contraction of activity relative to other European countries”.

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.