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COVID-19 CERTIFICATE

‘2G’: Will Switzerland further tighten the Covid certificate?

Among tighter Covid measures that Swiss authorities announced on Friday is the possibility of implementing restrictions on the unvaccinated. While Switzerland's president says it's 'conceivable', health experts say it doesn't go far enough.

Could Switzerland adopt the same  system as Germany (pictured here) and Austria in making the 2G rule obligatory? Photo by THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP
Could Switzerland adopt the same system as Germany (pictured here) and Austria in making the 2G rule obligatory? Photo by THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

In a press conference on Friday, Health Minister Alain Berset said that the 2G rule – which refers to people who have been vaccinated and recovered, but not tested – will not be put in place on a federal level. 

Berset, who announced a tightening of the Covid certificate whereby antigen tests would have a shorter validity, said it was up to the cantons and to private establishments to put in place a ‘2G’ restriction. 

READ MORE: Switzerland announces tighter Covid measures

By doing so, these venues could then dispense with mask rules. 

This means, in effect, that people who obtain the Covid certificate after a negative test would no longer be admitted to many bars, restaurants, and other venues.

Whether or not this measure will be enforced and to what extent is now being debated by health experts and politicians.

For Swiss president Guy Parmelin, the 2G “is conceivable” as a way to keep the healthcare system from being overcrowded with coronavirus patients, he said in an interview with public broadcaster SRF.

 “If we do not want to make vaccination compulsory, all that remains are measures such as the generalisation of the 2G rule”, he noted.

But health officials like Lukas Engelberger, head of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors, pointed out that if the current epidemiological situation can’t be brought under control, the 2G rule will not be enough to contain the pandemic.

Further measures, including the introduction of capacity limits, will have to be enforced.

“From an epidemiological point of view, the 2G certificate makes sense, especially when combined with an intensive campaign of tests, vaccinations and booster vaccinations”, according to Richard Neher, a biologist at the University of Basel.

Elected officials are also speaking in favour of the ‘vaccinated and recovered only’ strategy.

“I have come to the point where I have to say: you have to seriously consider 2G in certain areas of life”, said MP Matthias Jauslin.

He added, however, that “only a higher vaccination rate can get us out of the pandemic. The 2G rule could be a measure to achieve this goal”.  

“I would like to encourage unvaccinated people to do something for our society and our health system”.

Cedric Wermuth, co-director of the Social Democratic party is also calling  “for a rapid open debate on measures such as the 2G rule or compulsory vaccination”.

 After 20 months of the pandemic, nothing can no longer be excluded, he added.

Compulsory vaccination is a hot-button topic right now as well, especially amid reports about the skyrocketing number of infections and worsening situation in the country’s ICUs.

READ MORE: No more ICU beds’ in Zurich as Switzerland hits all-time Covid case record

But is this enforceable in Switzerland?

For Parmelin, there is no question of making vaccination compulsory at present. “We’ve always said we don’t want it”, he said.

Christoph Berger, head of  the Federal Commission for Vaccinations, agreed.

“In Switzerland, to be vaccinated or not is a personal decision. A general vaccination obligation would violate this principle”.

For the commission, compulsory vaccination can only be taken into consideration when all other measures, including confinement, have proved ineffective, he pointed out.

For his part, Engelberger noted that this obligation will not significantly increase the vaccination rate.

 “To impose compulsory vaccination, Switzerland would have to use such harsh methods that the relationship between citizens and the state would be seriously damaged in the long term”, he said.

READ MORE: Will Switzerland make the Covid vaccine compulsory?

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COVID-19 RULES

Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

Several Swiss cantons have expressed a desire to keep the Covid certificate in place. What does that mean for the relaxation of Covid measures?

Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

On Wednesday February 16th, Switzerland announced an imminent relaxation of almost all Covid measures. 

The decision was made after a two-week consultation with Switzerland’s cantons to decide the way forward out of the pandemic. 

The government announced that almost all Covid measures are being relaxed from Thursday, February 17th.

Covid certificates – which show someone has been vaccinated, recovered or in some cases has tested negative – will no longer be required in restaurants, cinemas or at events.

Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace, while they will continue to be required in public transport for the meantime. 

More information about the relaxed measures can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: Switzerland to scrap Covid certificate and most mask rules

What does this mean at a cantonal level? 

While the federal government no longer requires Covid certificates, they can however be required by the cantons, under the new framework.

Swiss media has previously reported that several cantons want to keep the certificate in place.

READ MORE: Swiss cantons divided on ending Covid measures

During the consultation period, several cantons expressed reservations about completely removing the certificate requirement. 

The small, centralised and predominantly German-speaking cantons of central Switzerland — Zug, Schwyz, Uri, Nidwalden, Obwalden and Glarus —  were in the greatest hurry to return to pre-Covid rules.

These cantons argued that a gradual lifting would be too complicated and difficult for the population to understand.

The southwestern canton of Valais preferred this approach as well, but only “as long as the number of cases and hospitalisations continue to decrease by mid-February”. Otherwise, the lifting of the measures should be done in stages.

However, Geneva, Basel-City, Neuchâtel and Jura said it was too early to lift remaining measures.

“It is too risky at the moment, given the still high load in hospitals”, according to Basel-City, which added that “the effects of the first relaxations, such as teleworking and quarantines, are also not yet known”.

Will some cantons still require a Covid certificate?

Berset clarified on Wednesday that while some cantons had argued for this as part of the consultation process (i.e. on a federal level), they would most likely not unilaterally keep the certificate rule in place from February 17th onwards. 

Berset however said he would need to clarify the matter with cantonal representatives and did not rule out some cantons deciding to keep the certificate in place in some instances – for example in relation to nightclubs or large events.

As at Wednesday afternoon, no cantons have indicated they will keep the certificate requirement in place. 

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