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COVID-19

Switzerland flags new measures, expansion of Covid certificate

Switzerland’s Federal Council held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss tighter Covid measures. Here’s what you need to know.

Swiss health minister Alain Berset. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss health minister Alain Berset. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Just two days after a nationwide referendum where voters backed the government’s powers to make Covid rules, Switzerland’s Federal Council has flagged a range of new Covid measures. 

The Federal Council said tighter rules were clearly needed, with rising case numbers and dwindling hospital capacities creating a “critical situation” in the country. 

‘Critical situation’: Switzerland’s new coronavirus hotspots

“If the development continues at the rate of the past few weeks, a nationwide overload of the intensive care units cannot be ruled out,” the government said in a press release. 

The concern is also fuelled by the newly discovered Omicron virus variant. 

“There is a risk that the previous vaccines will be less effective and that a previous infection with SARS CoV-2 will provide less protection against renewed infection,” the government said. 

The measures, which were approved by the Federal Council, have now been put out to the cantons for consultation, with a final decision to be made on Wednesday, December 1st. 

These are the draft measures. 

Covid certificate for private meetings

Private meetings – including those with family and friends – with more than 11 people are limited to those with a Covid certificate.

READ MORE: How will Switzerland enforce the Covid certificate in private homes? 

Lower limit for public and private events

The government also forecast a lowering of the number of people for events requiring a Covid certificate. 

Indoor events of all types will require a Covid certificate, whereas this requirement currently only applies to events with more than 30 people. 

Outdoor events will require a Covid certificate when there are more than 300 participants, down from the previous limit of 1,000. 

Masks

Masks are required in indoor areas which require a certificate. In restaurants and bars, the mask does not need to be worn at your seat. 

If masks cannot be worn during sporting activities and cultural events, a list of people’s contact details must be saved. 

Reducing validity of tests

The Federal Council proposal includes reducing the duration of a PCR test’s validity for the Covid certificate from 72 hours to 48 hours. 

Antigen tests would only be valid for the Covid certificate for 24 hours, rather than the current 48. 

Working from home? 

The Federal Council put forward three possible options to reduce spread in the workplace, with the cantons to decide on which measure will be required. 

The first is to require masks in indoor areas at workplaces, provided more than one person is in the room. 

The second is making working from home compulsory for those who have not been vaccinated and have not recovered from Covid. 

If these people cannot work from home – i.e. bakers – then they must wear a mask at work at all times. 

The third option is to require everyone who can work from home to work from home, regardless of vaccination status. Those who cannot work from home, need to wear masks at all times. 

Testing in schools

Testing on a repetitive basis must take place in compulsory schools and upper secondary schools. 

If approved by the cantons, these measures are set to expire on January 24th, 2022, although they can be extended. 

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COVID-19

‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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