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COVID-19

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

Tighter Covid measures have been put into effect in Switzerland since December 20th. Here's what you need to know.

A checked Swiss Covid-19 certificate on a mobile phone bearing 3G  and 2G signs
A checked Swiss Covid-19 certificate on a mobile phone bearing 3G (for tested, vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19) and 2G (vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19) signs. New restrictions in Switzerland include banning unvaccinated people from restaurants and cultural activities. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland will tighten Covid measures amid a worsening situation in the country, the government announced on Friday afternoon.

The measures will apply from Monday, December 20th. 

While the Covid certificate will be restricted only to the vaccinated and recovered, the toughest measures forecast last weekend – which included the complete closure of bars, restaurants and events – have been left off the table.

‘They endanger everyone’: Your verdict on Switzerland’s ‘lockdown for the unvaccinated’

Under the new rules, only vaccinated and recovered people will be able to access restaurants, cultural, sports and leisure facilities as well as events.

Masks will be required and people must also have an allocated seat.

Clubs, discos and bars without allocated seating will be restricted to vaccinated and recovered people who can also show a recent negative test. This is known as 2G+.

2G+ will also cover people who have had a recent booster. If you have had a booster shot in the previous four months, then 2G+ will apply and you will not need to show an additional negative test. 

Negative tests can be up to 72 hours old if they are PCR tests (individual or pooled), or up to 24 hours old if they are antigen tests. 

Self-tests are not sufficient for the 2G-Plus rule. 

EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s 2G-Plus rule?

The government has also agreed to cover the costs of testing for the purposes of the Covid certificate. Testing for travel abroad will not be covered by the government.

The entry rules will be relaxed, whereby people only need to show one test on entry (either PCR or antigen). The PCR test can be up to 72 hours old, the antigen test must be less than 24 hours old.

Vaccinated and recovered people do not need to show another test 4-7 days after.

More information about the changes is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to relax arrival test rules from Monday

Private meetings will also be restricted. Indoors where at least one unvaccinated person is present, the maximum number of people is ten. Only people aged 16 and over count towards the tally. 

If the entire group is vaccinated, the limit is 30 people – and 50 people if the event takes place outside.

Working from home will again be mandatory for everyone who is able to do it.

While the specifics of the working from home requirement have not been laid out expressly, they are expected to resemble those which were in place last winter. 

In effect, anyone who can work from home must do so. For instance, this will be OK for officer workers, but not for bakers (unless they have a tremendous home oven set up). 

More information is available at the following link (in relation to the previous working-from-home requirement). 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s working-from-home rules?

Not urgent surgeries will be postponed and masks will be required in secondary schools.

The measures are in place until at least January 24th, 2022, but look likely to be extended. 

The official government page is available here. 

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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