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Switzerland considers Covid certificates for restaurants as vaccination rates slow

In April, the Swiss government released its three-phase "normalisation strategy" to end all coronavirus restrictions by the end of summer. However, the implementation of the final phase is now in doubt.

Switzerland considers Covid certificates for restaurants as vaccination rates slow
Vaccinations are the determining factor in lifting of measures. Photo by Joseph Prezioso / AFP

The three phases of the Federal Council’s strategy outline how, and under what conditions, the gradual easing of all measures will take place.

The success of each phase is to be determined by the progress of the vaccination campaign.

Under the plan, the final, “normalisation”, stage should be in place from the end of July, but that is not likely to happen, according to the analysis by the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper.

The reason is that the goal the authorities established for vaccinations has not yet been met.

While early government predictions estimated that “full vaccination of the adult population (two doses) will be completed by the end of July 2021”, this benchmark has not been reached.

As of July 27th, just over 47 percent of Switzerland’s residents have received both shots — well below the 60-percent minimum set by the Federal Council.

And the overall pace of vaccinations has slowed down considerably in the past weeks as many people left for summer holidays.

What is the current epidemiological situation?

With the rapid-spreading, highly contagious Delta variant now accounting for over 97 percent of all cases in Switzerland, the number of infections has more than quadrupled since the beginning of July, primarily among the unvaccinated people.

However, for the government, the determining factor is the number of Covid-related hospitalisations. At this point, it is still well below the threshold of 120 hospital admissions per day that the Federal Council has set for tightening of rules.

Also, the number of deaths from coronavirus complications is extremely low.

What is going to happen now?

“If the epidemic were to grow stronger and threaten to overload the health system, the Federal Council reserves the right to maintain or reintroduce certain measures for a certain period of time”, the government said.

However, even though the conditions for lifting of all remaining coronavirus restrictions have not been met, there are no signs of an imminent tightening.

But if the situation deteriorates so much that there is a risk of the health system being overloaded, one of the first measures would be to implement the certificate requirement”, Tages-Anzeiger said.

This means that the Covid Certificate, also known as health pass, would have to be shown to access restaurants and other public places.

READ MORE: UPDATED: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

This step would be taken if the vaccination rate stagnates and hospitals are on the verge of overcrowding.

Epidemiologist Christian Althaus told the newspaper that the certificate requirement would be “a milder measure than renewed closings”.

This is in line with what the government is planning to do.

“The Federal Council reserves the right to maintain or reintroduce certain measures for a certain time, such as the obligation to wear a mask, the respect of distances or the limitation of capacities”, authorities said.

These measures, however, would be enforced only for people who don’t have the Covid certificate.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland is not considering new measures despite rising Covid case numbers

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”