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IN DETAIL: Which Covid measures will the Swiss government decide to relax on Wednesday?

The Swiss government will announce a further relaxation of coronavirus measures on Wednesday afternoon, including rules relating to travel, masks, sport, restaurants and events. Here's what we know so far.

IN DETAIL: Which Covid measures will the Swiss government decide to relax on Wednesday?
Switzerland looks set to relax mask rules from June 28th. Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP

The Federal Council will announce its decision this afternoon about which coronavirus measures should be further relaxed, with the changes expected to come into place from June 28th. 

The restrictions that the government would relax include upping the number of people allowed to gather together in and outdoors, permitting more people to sit at tables inside restaurants as well as on terraces, and lifting of mask requirements for outdoors.

Vaccinated tourists from third nations will also be allowed to come to Switzerland from next Wednesday.

Authorities have previously said these restrictions will be relaxed if the epidemiological situation and outlook remain good.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Mask rules to be lifted outdoors, in the workplace and at high schools

From June 28th, masks will no longer be required in busy, publicly accessible outdoor areas. 

Masks are currently required outdoors in bus stops, train stations, leisure facilities and on chair lifts. 

Masks will also no longer be required in the workplace. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to lift mask requirement in outdoor areas from June 28th

However, mask rules will remain in place where staff interact with customers, i.e. in retail outlets and restaurants. 

Masks will also no longer be federally required in grammar schools, technical secondary schools and vocational schools.

However, the Federal Council indicated that some cantons may continue the existing mask rules in educational institutions. 

Pubs and restaurants

Capacity restrictions will be loosened at pubs and restaurants. 

While the number of people per table will be raised from four to six, outdoor tables will no longer have an upper limit. 

Rules for mandatory seating will also be lifted in outdoor areas, meaning that people will again be able to drink while standing and move around. 

Pubs and restaurants will still be required to collect contact details and everyone moving around inside will still need to wear a mask. 

Nightclubs and discos open to those with Covid certificates 

Nightclubs and discos will again be allowed to open, although entry will be restricted to those with covid certificates. 

As reported by The Local Switzerland last week, nightclubs are classified as ‘red’ under Switzerland’s covid certificate rules – which means only those who have tested negative, been vaccinated or recovered from the virus will be allowed to attend.

Attendees must demonstrate compliance by bringing a Covid certificate. Click the link below for more information.  

READ MORE: What will Switzerland’s Covid-19 pass allow you to do?

A maximum of 250 people will be allowed to attend, but masks will not be required provided. 

Venues must collect contact details. 

Events to be allowed again

The rules relating to events will also be relaxed. Up to 1000 people can take part in an event without a covid certificate if they are seated, while the maximum for standing events will be 250 people. 

These limits apply both indoors and outdoors. 

Private events can take place without masks with a max of 30 people (indoors) and 50 people (outdoors). 

Sport

Capacity restrictions on outdoor and indoor sport will be wound back, while indoor sports will still be required to have masks provided distance cannot be kept. 

Travel

Quarantine requirements and other entry restrictions will be completely dropped for people entering from the Schengen area. 

Only countries in the Schengen region which have a high prevalence of Covid mutations would face entry restrictions. As at June 23rd, this includes Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, Nepal, and the UK.

From outside the Schengen zone, Switzerland is set to open up to vaccinated travellers. 

This includes people from the United States. 

“In view of the positive developments in the epidemiological situation and the progress made in the field of vaccination, the Federal Council is proposing to greatly relax the prescriptions and health measures at the border for people entering Switzerland”, authorities said.

This means not only that there would no longer be any testing or quarantine requirements for vaccinated arrivals for citizens of Schengen area states, but also for those coming from third nations, that is, countries outside the EU / EFLA.

Filling out the passenger locator form will still be obligatory for all passengers arriving by air, but not for those using land transportation.

More information is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: Switzerland set to reopen its borders to vaccinated travellers, including Americans

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COVID-19 VACCINES

EXPLAINED: Why are Covid infections soaring in Switzerland despite vaccination?

The number of coronavirus infections in Switzerland has increased exponentially in recent weeks, showing no sign of slowing down. Does this mean that vaccines are ineffective against the virus?

Not enough people in Switzerland are vaccinated to prevent new outbreaks, experts say. Photo by Steven Cornfield on Unsplah
Not enough people in Switzerland are vaccinated to prevent new outbreaks, experts say. Photo by Steven Cornfield on Unsplah

With the number of new daily infections exceeding 8,000 in the past days — and even topping 10,000 at the beginning of December — the current epidemiological situation in Switzerland is mirroring trends from 2020, before vaccines have entered the picture.

Health experts are qualifying Switzerland’s epidemiological situation as “critical”, especially as ICUs in some Swiss hospitals are reaching their full capacities and there is even talk of impending need for triage.

Does this mean that mRNA-type vaccines used in Switzerland — Moderna and Pfizer — are not effective against coronavirus and its variants, including Delta?

Officials say it is because the vaccination coverage is insufficient.

The most recent data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), indicates that 66.11 percent of all adults in Switzerland have been fully vaccinated up to December 7th.

When counting in people from the age of 12, the total goes up to 75.23 percent.

This means that about 25 percent of Switzerland’s population 12 years and up remains unvaccinated — a total of over 2 million people.

Health experts have repeatedly said that the virus spreads predominantly among those who have not been inoculated against Covid, and numbers confirm this trend.

READ MORE: Covid-19 in Switzerland: Why number of deaths among the vaccinated is misinterpreted

At the end of November, Switzerland’s Covid-19 Task Force has released a range of statistical findings about the transmission of the virus, including the fact that those who have not been vaccinated are three times more likely to infect others.

On the other hand, people  who have been vaccinated are three times less contagious than those who have not had the jab. 

These findings dispel one of the more pervasive myths about the virus which has been circulating since the start of the vaccination campaign — that the vaccinated and the unvaccinated are just as likely to transmit the virus and infect others. 

The false claim has often been used by Covid sceptics as a reason why vaccines are ineffective. 

READ MORE: Unvaccinated ‘three times more contagious’ than vaccinated in Switzerland

What about cases of infection found among the fully vaccinated people in Switzerland?

A good way to get a clear picture of whether vaccines protect against the virus is to look at Covid-related hospitalisations and deaths.

FOPH statistics show that 264 Covid patients have been admitted to ICUs until December 6th — up from 154 on November 22nd and 217 on November 28th.

The majority of patients treated in ICUs in Switzerland are unvaccinated, as this FOPH chart shows.

Also, if we compare the number of coronavirus patients currently in Swiss ICUs to the situation in December 2020, we see that at this time last year, 453 Covid patients were treated in intensive care units — nearly double.

“If hospitals have not yet collapsed, it is thanks to vaccination”, said Urs Karrer, the task force’s vice-president.

However, vaccines are not infallible

Health authorities have stated from the beginning that vaccines like Moderna and Pfizer offer a 94 percent protection against Covid in general, and slightly less against the Delta strain. This is still a high level of immunity, but it does imply that a certain number of people can still get infected.

If a vaccinated person does get infected they will most likely not end up in an ICU, according to Julien Riou, epidemiologist at the University of Bern.

“Vaccines are also very effective at preventing 90 to 95 percent of severe cases and deaths. So the people who are most at risk now are the vulnerable and the non-vaccinated”, he said

READ MORE: How many vaccinated and unvaccinated people have died from Covid in Switzerland?

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