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Swiss canton Basel-City cuts quarantine period from Monday

The Swiss canton of Basel-City has cut the quarantine period to seven days and simplified contact tracing, the city's health department said in a bulletin outlining the new regulations on Friday.

Black and white photo of man looking out of partially opened window.
Very close contacts of infected people will now only need to quarantine for seven days. Photo by Jose Antonio Gallego Vázquez on Unsplash

Rising infection rates driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant mean that many people are in quarantine following contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19, so the city’s health department has adjusted the rules to reduce the impact on society, in line with recommendations from the Swiss Ministry of Health.

Under the new regulations announced by the in a bulletin, only those people who live in the same household as an infected person or who have “intimate [close physical] contact with an infected person will need to be reported to the cantonal department of health.

These people will have to quarantine and should do a PCR or rapid-antigen test during the quarantine period or at the end of it, at the latest.

But the time they have to quarantine for has also been cut: it’s now seven days from 10 previously.

The new rules will apply from Monday, January 3rd, 2022.

The infected person should still tell other people they have been in contact with that they tested positive, but these non-close contacts do not need to quarantine. According to the bulletin, they are advised to pay attention to hygiene, reduce contact to a minimum and take a test immediately if they get any symptoms.

Even if they don’t get any symptoms, they should still do a test four to seven days after their last contact with the infected person.

Simpler contact tracing
Anyone who is fully vaccinated or has been boosted and received their last jab less than four months ago, does not need to quarantine.You also don’t need to quarantine if you have had and recovered from Covid-19 in the last four months.

These rules do not apply to those who test positive for the virus, of course. As the city’s health department said in the bulletin: “Anyone who tests positive for Covid-19 must continue to stay at home for ten days”.

“At the moment, technical and logistical clarifications are in progress and these also require us to communicate with the neighbouring cantons,” he added.

On Friday, Basel-City’s seven-day incidence rate for 100,000 inhabitants stood at 650, compared with 934 for the whole of Switzerland, the canton’s Department of Health said.

There are currently 1,454 active cases of Covid-19 in the canton and 75 patients in hospital with the virus, including 18 in intensive care.

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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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