Will Switzerland place the UK back on its quarantine list due to the Indian variant?
Swiss authorities removed the Great Britain from its mandatory quarantine list on March 24th. But what will happen now, when the Indian coronavirus variant is spreading through the country?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that the proliferation of this variant jeopardises his government's plans for a complete lift of pandemic restrictions in June.
This situation is prompting some Swiss politicians to call for the re-introduction of travel bans on flights from the UK, as was the case when the British variant was first detected in Switzerland in December.
"We mustn't have any reservations when it comes to entry restrictions," said Lorenz Hess, a MP from The Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland.
He is demanding that the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) adjust the quarantine regulations for arrivals from Great Britain.
“It would be fatal if we were paralysed shortly before the next opening steps because of the Indian variant. The success of the vaccination campaign in Switzerland must not be jeopardised”.
Another deputy, Yvonne Feri from the Social Democratic Party, is also calling on FOPH to “closely monitor the situation” in the UK and to impose entry regulations for travellers from that country.
Model calculations by the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich show that while the Indian variant currently accounts for around 5 percent of all samples examined in Switzerland, the Covid-19 Task Force expects that this mutation will replace the other variants and account for 100 percent of new infections by the summer.
“There are indications that the Indian virus mutation is transmitted even faster than the British one”, said Basel cantonal doctor Thomas Steffen. “It is currently being discussed whether the human immune system reacts less strongly to this variant."
The good news is that the two vaccines administered in Switzerland — Pfizer / Biontech and Moderna — are believed to be effective against the new mutation.
"Even if the vaccines do not completely match the Indian variant, protection against severe infections can still be expected," Steffen said.
Jürg Utzinger, director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, is also optimistic about the vaccine’s ability to counteract the Indian mutation.
"If we can continue vaccinating like this, the risk of the infection process in Switzerland getting out of hand again is low", he said.
And thanks to the rapid progress in vaccination, Utzinger does not believe that the Federal Council's opening plans are currently in jeopardy.
As far as placing the UK on the quarantine list, FOPH has not made any announcements to this effect to date.
But while FOPH has placed India on its quarantine list on April 26th — two days after the first case of the Indian variant was detected in Switzerland — Swiss authorities have not suspended flights from India altogether.