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Experts warn Switzerland headed for ‘10,000 infections a day’ after winding back Covid measures

In view of the planned phase-out of the current restrictions, the number of coronavirus cases could skyrocket in Switzerland, experts warn.

Experts warn Switzerland headed for '10,000 infections a day' after winding back Covid measures
People sitting with social distance in front of Swiss parliament in Bern. Image: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The Federal Council announced on Wednesday its strategy to gradually end all coronavirus restrictions before the end of the summer.

By August, all measures currently in place would be lifted, if the pandemic doesn’t worsen in the meantime, authorities said.

But this plan alarmed experts at the Covid-19 Task Force, who predict that once protective measures are lifted, contaminations will sharply increase.

“With the easing, Switzerland is taking a risk”, said the Task Force’s chairman Martin Ackermann.

The task force established two possible scenarios: one based on 100,000 vaccinations a day, and the other on 50,000.

In the first case, contaminations will peak at 10,000 cases a day in June, before dropping in July. The second scenario predicts from 12,000 to 15,000 infections each day.  

What exactly does this mean?

To put it into context, right now over 2,300 infections are reported daily in Switzerland, which is considered a lot.

As a comparison, even in the midst of the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, the highest daily recorded numbers did not exceed 2,000 cases — however, much less testing was done in the early days, so the numbers were likely higher.

Ackermann did note that the two catastrophic scenarios drawn by the Task Force “are not exact forecasts, but rather a general trend”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s three-phase plan for ending Covid-19 restrictions?

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OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.