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

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 Friday
Pandemic-driven snacking is on the rise. Photo by from Pexels

Zurich asks government to restore “freedom of travel”

During a visit of the Swiss president Guy Parmelin to Zurich airport, cantonal officials asked the Federal Council to lift travel restrictions from countries where the risk of infection is similar to Switzerland’s.

They also suggested to Parmelin that people who have been vaccinated, have developed immunity after recovering from Covid, or test negative, should be allowed to forego quarantine upon arrival in Switzerland.

“Records of vaccination, recovery and/or negative test results should be digitalised, be internationally standardised and recognised”, airport officials, along with representatives of travel and aviation industry, stated in a press release.

In March, Zurich airport, Switzerland’s largest, recorded a 74.4-percent drop in passenger numbers compared to last year, and a 90.6-decrease compared to 2019.

Authorities have not hinted at when normal travel to and from Switzerland might resume.

A new job opportunity for computer hackers

In order to make its online services more secure, Swiss Post wants to employ hackers to breach the company’s security system. Among services whose online security will be tested are customer login, the Postshop, the Post-App, and WebStamp. 

The amount paid for each reported security breach is between 50 and 10,000 francs.

Hackers already identified 500 “weak points” on the Post’s website, collectively earning 250,000 francs, according to Marcel Zumbühl, the company’s IT manager.

Hackers interested in participating can register on the company’s Bug Bounty platform.

READ MORE: Swiss Post accused of theft after ‘losing’ an 8,000-franc Rolex watch

Self-tests should be disposed of safely

A waste management company in canton Zug sounded an alarm concerning coronavirus home tests: once used, these kits are being thrown out in trash bins, potentially exposing garbage collectors to risk of infections.

In order to prevent any contamination, self-tests should be placed in a tear-proof bag before being put in the public bin. “To make sure that no one is at risk of getting infected, you have to use the double bag system”, disposing of kits in the same way as hazardous waste, the company, Zeba, said in a press release.

The same disposal system applies to used face masks.

READ MORE: Covid-19 screening in Switzerland: Can self-tests really curb the spread of infections?

Snacking habits in Switzerland are shaped by the pandemic

Covid-19 seems to have split Switzerland’s population into two distinct groups. One took advantage of the confinement to keep fit and exercise, while the other opted to sit on a sofa and snack in front of TV.

The second group appears to have prevailed, as snack distributors report a sharp increase in sales during the pandemic.

Migros, Coop and Aldi supermarket chains all registered higher demand for savoury snacks, continually adapting its stocks of potato chips and pretzels to meet the growing consumer demand.

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.