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IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland’s ‘slow’ vaccination rollout protects the most vulnerable

Switzerland's vaccine rollout is slowly, but surely, hitting its stride - particularly with regard to the most vulnerable members of the population. Here's what you need to know.

IN NUMBERS: How Switzerland's ‘slow’ vaccination rollout protects the most vulnerable
A man is vaccinated a dose of Moderna vaccine against the Covid-19 at a newly-opened vaccination center in Lausanne, Switzerland. Photo: VALENTIN FLAURAUD / AFP

After a slow start, Switzerland’s vaccination scheme is gradually picking up speed.

The impact of this campaign can most clearly be seen in the positive effect it has had on the number of hospitalisations and deaths. 

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

As at May 20th, Switzerland has administered 42.5 shots per 100 people — less than many other European countries — which can be seen in the following graphic. 

Importantly however, 11 percent of Switzerland’s population has been fully vaccinated (having received two doses).

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. 

Why the discrepancy between first and second shots?

This is a policy outcome reflecting the government’s focus on ensuring the most vulnerable were fully vaccinated, rather than getting shots to as many people as possible. 

The first priority for Swiss authorities was people aged over 75, people with chronic diseases and those in retirement and care homes. 

People who work in retirement and care homes are also in the first priority group. 

Switzerland’s focus on the most vulnerable can be seen in its policy for second doses. 

Swiss policy until late April was to have each canton reserve a second dose for each person who had received their first dose. 

This meant that while there were doses being kept in storage, these were kept secure for people who had already had one dose. 

This policy was changed in late April, when the government encouraged cantons to use up their reserves – a policy change which was at least in part motivated by increases in available supply. 

READ MORE: Switzerland tells cantons to use up their vaccine reserves

Another reason is the short period of time between first and second doses. 

While many countries have recommended anywhere from six weeks to 16 weeks between doses, Switzerland stuck to a four-week gap until late April

On April 21st, Swiss health experts changed their recommendation for the time between doses from four to six weeks. 

While this is likely to result in slight delays in getting people fully vaccinated in cantons that follow this recommendation, the impact can already be seen in the percentage of people who have been fully protected. 

Another reason is the vaccines which are administered in Switzerland. 

Switzerland, unlike almost every country in Europe, uses exclusively mRNA vaccines (i.e. those produced by Moderna and Biontech/Pfizer).

AstraZeneca was never approved in Switzerland, while although Johnson and Johnson was approved, the government declined to purchase any doses

In countries that have administered AstraZeneca, the time between doses has tended to be longer than that for the mRNA vaccines (although not in every case), resulting in more people having only one shot (at least initially). 

More information on how Switzerland’s vaccination campaign is progressing – and where it stands with regard to other countries – can be seen at the following link. 

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

Government purchases vaccines for 2022

The federal government has signed another contract with the biotech firm Moderna “to ensure a sufficient supply of the vaccine for 2022”, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Thursday.

The new contract provides for the delivery of 7 million doses in early 2022, with the option of buying 7 million additional  doses during the course of 2022.

“This means Switzerland is well equipped to tackle future virus mutations”, FOPH said, adding that  “Moderna is currently researching a booster shot that will also target emerging virus strains to ensure a high level of protection”.

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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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