SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

CHRISTMAS

Is Switzerland likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

With the holidays only a few weeks away and the epidemiological situation in the country deteriorating, will the Swiss government introduce new measures in time for Christmas?

Swiss government is still debating whether to implement new rules for Christmas
Decisions about any new restrictions over the Christmas season have not yet been announced. Photo by Fabio Porta on Unsplash

In fall of 2020, as the number of coronavirus infections had soared after a relatively calm summer, the Federal Council implemented several new restrictions and recommendations for Christmas.

Among them was the one limiting get-togethers to 10 people, preferably consisting of two households or two families, as well as the number of shoppers per square metre in stores.

An 11 pm curfew was also in place for bars and restaurants, although it was lifted exceptionally for New Year’s Eve.

These were the restrictions enforced for the Christmas – New Year’s period in 2020.

What about this year’s holiday season?

The epidemiological pattern is similar to last year’s, evoking an eerie sense of déja-vu: low numbers during the warm-weather months, gradually increasing as cold weather sets in, driving people indoors and allowing the virus to spread more easily

The difference between now and then are vaccinations. While they don’t seem to have much effect on the overall number of cases, — nearly 4,000 new daily infections reported on Friday, they are less spread out than at same time last year.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s Covid cases are skyrocketing despite vaccinations

At the end of 2020, both eastern and western Switzerland experienced outbreaks of infections, while this autumn, the increase is detected mainly in cantons of central and eastern Switzerland, such as Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Nidwalden, Schwyz, Uri and St.Gallen, where the rate of vaccinations lags behind the national average.

“It’s a bit like raining all over Switzerland. Some cantons have umbrellas, others don’t, so some regions are wet, and others not”, virologist Didier Trono explained in an interview with Swiss news outlet RTS.

One positive development this year versus 2020 is that less people are hospitalised with Covid.

What, if any measures, is Switzerland likely to implement for Christmas?

As countries across Europe, including neighbour Austria, are imposing measures to slow down the spread of coronavirus, Switzerland has not yet announced what, if any, new rules it will introduce in the near future.

Authorities have waited to see whether the Vaccination Week campaign that took place between November 8th and 14th, was successful in inoculating large numbers of holdouts.

Early numbers suggest a slight rise in the number of vaccinations, but not a significant increase that the authorities were hoping for.

“There comes a time when we have to admit that we can no longer convince many people to be vaccinated”, president Guy Parmelin conceded in an interview with NZZ am Sonntag.

Latest figures from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) indicate that 64.7 of adults in Switzerland are fully vaccinated. This number goes up to 73.62 percent when people 12 years and older are included in the statistics. However, FOPH points out that a large number of residents remains not immunised and susceptible to get infected.

For this reason, new restrictions are not out of the question, with Parmelin saying that since the rate of vaccinations has not accelerated as hoped, Switzerland must “limit the damage and promote other measures”.

He did not specify what exactly these restrictions might look like, except stating that “We want at all costs to avoid a new confinement”.

The Federal Council does not want to enact stricter rules unless they are absolutely necessary, he said.

They could be limited to the 2G rule, which limits access to restaurants, bars, and all other indoor venues to people who are fully vaccinated or recovered from a Covid infection, excluding those who have a negative test result.

Whatever rules might be implemented ahead of the Christmas holidays, they will aim to prevent Swiss hospitals from being saturated, which is a major concern when the number of infections soars.

“We cannot rule out an overload of the health system”, Parmelin said.

This was confirmed by Tanja Stadler, head of the Covid-19 Task Force, who warned that hospitals might have to admit 30,000 coronavirus patients this winter.

There is no timeline for the decisions, as the Federal Council is likely waiting to see the outcome of the Covid-19 referendum on November 28th, which will decide the fate of Switzerland’s Covid ceritificate, even though the results would not be binding immediately.

READ MORE: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s Covid referendum on November 28th?

This is what we do know so far.

Skiing over the Christmas holidays will be allowed, and many Christmas markets will be open, though some will require Covid certificates to enter.

You can find out more about it here:

EXPLAINED: Everything tourists should know about skiing in Switzerland

Eat, drink and be merry: Switzerland’s best Christmas markets in 2021

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

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?

SHOW COMMENTS