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Is Switzerland likely to bring back Covid restrictions this 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
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?

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


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