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SWITZERLAND

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
Fewer coronavirus patients are hospitalised right now. Phoro by LOIC VENANCE / AFP

The government unveils its three-step strategy toward ‘normalisation’

The plan consists of the “protection phase” in effect until the end of May, followed by the “stabilisation phase” until the end of July, and “normalisation phase” to be implemented by the end of August, at which point Covid-related restrictions “can be largely lifted”, the Federal Council announced. 

However, authorities stressed that each phase can be accomplished only if the population is willing to be vaccinated.

Read the details of what is involved in each phase of the plan in our article today.

READ MORE: Swiss cantons to start vaccinating younger people after increase in severe Covid cases

Pandemic is mostly — but not yet totally — under control, numbers show

Despite the increasing number of coronavirus cases, Switzerland’s general epidemiological situation is improving.

Health authorities assess the state of the pandemic based on several criteria.

Just days ago, only one of these conditions had been met, but now half of them are fulfilled.

  • Number of beds occupied in intensive care (average over 15 days): 214. Threshold: 250
  • New daily hospitalisations, combined (last 7 days): 51.4. Threshold: 55.3
  • Number of daily deaths (last 7 days): 5.7. Threshold: 7.3

However, norms were exceeded in the number of new cases per 100,000 inhabitants (over 14 days): 331.88. Threshold: 229.9, as well as the R-rate: 1.10. Threshold: 1.00

Swiss Federal Railways are expanding their fleet

Switzerland’s railways (SBB) are spending 1.3 billion francs to buy 60 additional two-story InterRegio (IR) trains, supplementing the existing fleet of 93 IRs already in service.

Forty-one new cars will comply with the requirements of the Disabled Equality Act (LHand) in mainline traffic. This law mandates, among other things, that people with reduced mobility can independently access trains by 2023.

Also, to solve the capacity problems in certain high-traffic regions, 19 new trains be will be put into service.

More two-deckers will be put into service. Photo by SBB

Zurich to provide medical care to illegal immigrants

Municipal authorities have approved a 4.6-million-franc pilot project to provide health services to undocumented migrants and others who don’t have health insurance — a programme similar to the one already in existence in Geneva.

Officials estimate that between 11,000 and 14,000 people in Zurich don’t have health insurance and would therefore be eligible for the programme.

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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SWITZERLAND

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. 

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