As Omicron is relatively new in Europe and Switzerland, health officials don’t yet know whether vaccines offer effective protection against it.
This is especially pertinent as one of the three Swiss residents infected with the variant — a 19-year-old student from Basel — was fully vaccinated against Covid.
READ MORE: First Omicron cases detected in Switzerland
Even if there is a mere suspicion of Omicron contagion, people have to remain in quarantine for 10 days as a precautionary measure against inadvertently spreading the new strain of the virus.
During this time they must stay home and not leave the house for any reason.
While previously it was possible to be released from the quarantine after seven days if a test result was negative, early termination by means of a test is not an option right now.
“We don’t recommend this at the moment,” said Patrick Mathys , head of the crisis management section at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
This is unlike contact with known variants of the virus, where vaccinated people are not required to quarantine.
More than 100 people in Switzerland are in quarantine now due to the exposure to Omicron.
Among them are classmates and others who had been in contact with the Basel student, as well as those who could have contracted it from the two people in Geneva who both tested positive after returning from South Africa.
In addition, a number of cases are currently being clarified in more detail in Switzerland, though FOPH doesn’t yet know if they are due to Omicron or Delta, the latter being the predominant virus in the country right now.
So do we have to assume that there are numerous other undiscovered Omikron cases in Switzerland?
It is a possibility.
“It could be that the variant is actually more widespread in Switzerland than we know today”, according to Thomas Steffen, cantonal doctor in Basel.
Right now, health authorities are busy investigating whether “they are individual cases or the first clusters.”
If you are entering Switzerland from certain countries, you must quarantine as well. These links provide more information about this requirement for travellers.