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Covid-19: What are Switzerland’s rules for New Year’s Eve parties?

Whatever plans you are making to celebrate on December 31st, you have to comply with these Swiss-wide measures that are in place to rein in the spread of coronavirus.

Have a happy, but also safe and healthy, New Year. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Have a happy, but also safe and healthy, New Year. Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

The rules for New Year’s Eve are the same as the ones that were in effect for Christmas gatherings over the previous weekend.

Here’s the overview of what you can and can’t do.

The 2G rule

By now the only people in Switzerland who don’t know what ‘2G’ stands for are the ones who just landed here from another planet.

It means you have to be fully vaccinated or recovered from coronavirus in the past four months (geimpft and genesen in German) — with a Covid certificate to prove it — to access indoor venues and events such as restaurants, cultural establishments, as well as sports and leisure facilities.

Those who are unvaccinated or not recovered from Covid, but merely tested, are no longer allowed entry under the new rules.

READ MORE: 2G: Switzerland targets unvaccinated with new Covid measures

Another condition that must be met under the 2G rule is that food and drink must be consumed while sitting at a table. If that is not feasible, then the 2G-Plus rule kicks in.

What is it?

This more restrictive measure is intended to prevent the spread of the virus in places where certain protective measures can’t be maintained.

It applies in situations where the requirement to be seated while eating or drinking can’t be met — for example in bars and clubs — and masks can’t be worn.

“In settings where masks cannot be worn, such as brass band practice, or where it is not possible to eat or drink while seated, admission will be limited to vaccinated or recovered persons who also present a negative test result,” the Federal Council said.

However, “people who within the last four months have been fully vaccinated, received a booster or recovered from COVID-19 do not have to take a further test”, authorities said.

So if you have not been inoculated against Covid or recovered from it within the last four months, you need a test (PCR or antigen) to go to any places where seating is not guaranteed and where masks can’t be worn.

The same applies if you have been fully vaccinated or recovered more than four months ago and have not had a booster shot since then.

Smaller get-togethers

If are planning to greet the New Year with friends and family, you must comply with some rules as well.

Private events can be attended by a maximum of 30 people inside and 50 people outside if everyone in the group is fully vaccinated. 

If at least one unvaccinated person is present, then the maximum number of people allowed is 10. 

Those are the rules throughout Switzerland but if you live in, or plan to visit, Ticino, you will have to comply with additional measures.

As the Italian-speaking canton has the highest proportion — 51 percent at the beginning of this week — of Covid patients infected with Omicron variant, stricter rules are in effect in effect there.

With the exception of those who have been boosted, everyone who has had contact with Covid patients must be in quarantine, even if they are fully inoculated, according to chief cantonal doctor Giorgio doctor Merlani, who said there is “proof of Omicron’s ability to infect people who have been vaccinated”.

All these measures are in effect until January 24th at the earliest.

Now that you’ve been forewarned, try to have a Happy New Year — if you can.

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

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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.