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ANALYSIS: Why are Switzerland’s coronavirus numbers falling so sharply?

Even though some Swiss experts have forecast a drastic increase in the number of coronavirus cases, the opposite trend is happening. This is why.

ANALYSIS: Why are Switzerland’s coronavirus numbers falling so sharply?
Vaccinations are among reasons for declining infection rates. Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP

In April, Covid-19 Task Force predicted that once coronavirus restrictions are lifted, Switzerland would be hit by 10,000 infections a day.

Since then, some measures have been relaxed on April 19th, including the re-opening of outdoor restaurants and fitness centres — but the prediction has not come true, at least at this point.

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

In fact, numbers are declining – from well over 2,000 a day two weeks ago to well under 2,000 currently. Also, the R-rate, which indicates how quickly the virus spreads through the population, fell below 1, which is where authorities want it to be.

Likewise, Covid-related hospitalisations and deaths have dropped as well, prompting Patrick Mathys, head of the crisis unit at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) to announce that Switzerland has “good reasons to be cautiously optimistic”.

When questioned about the prediction, Task Force’s vice-chairman Urs Karrer “was somewhat embarrassed”, according to Tribune de Genève.

He added that the models the experts used to make the prediction “will be re-examined”.

Why has Switzerland’s epidemiological situation improved?

Karrer said this is due to the “good behaviour of the population”, as well as “seasonality” — with warmer weather, people spend more time outdoors, where chances of being infected are greatly reduced.

However, the most important reason why the numbers are steadily declining are vaccinations.

Even though Switzerland has administered just 30 shots per 100 people — less than many other European countries — the campaign has already had a positive effect on the number of hospitalisations and deaths. 

Importantly, 11 percent of Switzerland’s population has been fully vaccinated (having received two doses), reflecting the government’s focus on ensuring the most vulnerable were fully vaccinated, rather than getting shots to as many people as possible. 

As a result, Switzerland has the fourth highest percentage of fully vaccinated people when compared to EU and EFTA countries, behind only Denmark, Spain and Italy. 

COMPARE: Which countries are leading the race to vaccinate in Europe?

The prospects are even better since younger age groups have been included in the vaccination campaign in various cantons, and health authorities promised to speed up the pace with the arrival of 8 million more doses prior to summer.

But what matters it is not just the inoculation process, but also the kind of vaccines Switzerland uses: Moderna and Pfizer /Biontech, both of which are based on the so-called mRNA technology, are effective against new variants, according to Steve Pascolo, immunologist at the University Hospital Zurich.

He compared Switzerland’s situation to that of Israel, “a country of the same size as ours, which has used this type of vaccines and has been experiencing a return to normality for the past month, while in some parts of the world, including India and Turkey, which have used other vaccines, Covid variants are wreaking havoc”.

Another reason for the decline in cases is widespread testing

Since the middle of March, coronavirus tests have been made free in almost every case, while free ‘self tests’ have been available at Swiss pharmacies since April 7th. 

READ MORE: PCR, rapid and self-tests: Your guide to coronavirus testing in Switzerland

If more tests are performed and more infections are detected, this means people will be isolated before they transmit the virus to others.

All these factors have contributed to the decline in Covid cases in Switzerland.

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Unmarried couples: How can I visit my partner in Switzerland?

Since the start of the pandemic, unmarried couples have found it difficult to reunite in Switzerland. Here are the documents you need to visit your partner.

Unmarried couples: How can I visit my partner in Switzerland?
A couple enjoys a shared fondue in Switzerland. Photo: STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP

Before the pandemic, visiting your partner in Switzerland involved little more than the money for a flight and perhaps a tourist visa. 

Since March, 2020 however, Switzerland has tightened the rules for entry – which has meant many couples found it challenging or even impossible to see each other. 

While the rules were originally so strict that only married couples could reunite in Switzerland, this was relaxed in August of 2020. 

READ MORE: Unmarried partners again allowed into Switzerland

In order to do so however, unmarried couples will need to ‘prove’ their relationship to satisfy Swiss authorities. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

How can I visit my boyfriend or girlfriend in Switzerland?

First things first, your citizenship and where you are arriving from will be crucially important. 

If you are a Swiss citizen or resident, then there will be no issues. You can come to Switzerland at any time.

If they live in a EU / Schengen state or in the small European states like Andorra, the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino, they can come for a visit as well. 

More information is available at the following link. 

UPDATED: Who can travel to Switzerland right now?

How can people from outside Europe visit their partners in Switzerland? 

For non-Schengen countries, you’ll need to do the following. 

Generally speaking, these people are not allowed to enter Switzerland at the moment, except for a handful of nations deemed low-risk, including Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, South Korea, Singapore, and Thailand.

However, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) does have exceptions for families and partners of Swiss residents.

This what the SEM website says:

“Entry by the immediate family members of a Swiss citizen who are registered with a Swiss foreign representation and are entering Switzerland with that Swiss citizen for a stay here does not require authorisation. Immediate family means the Swiss citizen’s spouse or registered partner and minor children (including step-children). In certain circumstances it also includes unmarried partners”.

SEM then goes on to specify entry rules for unmarried partners:

Entry to visit a partner to whom one is not married or in a registered partnership with and with whom one does not have children is possible if:

  • The person wishing to enter the country has an invitation from the partner living in Switzerland and the partner is a Swiss citizen or has a short-stay permit, temporary or permanent residence permit.
  • Confirmation of the existing partnership is submitted. This can be a document confirming the relationship which has been signed by both partners. 
  • Proof can be given that at least one face-to-face visit or meeting took place in Switzerland or abroad.
  • Entry is not permitted on the basis of a mere holiday acquaintance.
  • Proof must be given that a relationship has already lasted for some time and is regularly cultivated. The persons concerned must provide credible evidence that they have been in regular contact.

How do I prove someone is my partner to visit Switzerland? 

There are no hard and fast rules as to which documents will be sufficient, but the government wants to be convinced that this is a “long-term relationship which is cultivated on a regular basis”, with no definition of “cultivation”. 

The SEM provides some examples, including “documents that document a long-term civil partnership (for example, letters and e-mails, social media, telephone bills, flight tickets, photos); Evidence such as a copy of your passport with entry and exit stamps that at least one mutual personal visit or meeting has taken place in Switzerland or abroad.”

One couple speaking with Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes said they used instagram photos as evidence of their relationship at the suggestion of the SEM. 

A couple sits above the clouds in Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Are there any exceptions? 

There are other exemptions as well, which SEM defines as “cases of special necessity”.

They include people coming to Switzerland because a close relative is dying; to visit close relatives who have medical emergency; to continue essential medical treatment; or for important family events like funerals, weddings or births.

The full list of exceptions and other entry-related information for visitors from third countries can be found here. 

If your family or partner are eligible based on the above exceptions,  they may need a visa to enter Switzerland, depending on their country of residence. They have to apply for one at the Swiss foreign representation in their country, explaining and documenting why they are a case of special necessity.

In certain cases, the foreign representation may be able to provide documents confirming the situation.

For those who don’t need a visa, the border control officers in Switzerland or at a Schengen airport decide whether the requirements of necessity have been met, SEM said.

Keep in mind that all the above rules apply only to family visits, not general tourism. Rules for third-country tourists are here.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland relax restrictions on international travel?

 

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