Switzerland to decide further Covid measures on Wednesday

Swiss officials are waiting until Wednesday to make a decision on expanding Covid measures, saying more data is needed on the Omicron variant, particularly with regard to hospitalisation.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset walks past a poster reminding people to wear masks. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset walks past a poster reminding people to wear masks. Switzerland will decide on further Covid measures on Wednesday. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

For the time being, the Federal Council has refrained from introducing stricter measures to rein in the spread of coronavirus, saying insufficient information is available about the risks of the Omicron variant. 

However, “the next few days are crucial,” said Lukas Engelberger, head of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors.

Engelberger told Switzerland’s Sonntagszeitung newspaper that new data would be available by Wednesday which would allow federal authorities to make a decision. 

“If the use of intensive care units continues to increase by then, the Federal Council will not be able to avoid adopting new measures as early as next week or at least submitting them to the cantons for consultation.”

He added that “the most important thing is that we have a suitable measures for the Omicron wave and not simply rely on the most convenient one. 

“If further tightening is needed, they must come from the federal government as far as they concern the basic rules, for example where 2-G or 2-G plus applies.”

Some early reports from the United Kingdom have suggested Omicron, although more infectious, actually produces more mild symptoms than known variants of the virus – and in particular the Delta variant. 

There have however been indications from abroad that known vaccines are less effective against the variant. 

What measures are currently in place in Switzerland? 

Some cantons have put in place their own measures, including various rules on masks in schools, while others on Monday decided to shorten their quarantine requirement. 

Covid-19: Eight Swiss cantons shorten their quarantine requirements

The most stringent measures have however been imposed at a federal level, including a nationwide 2G rule for restaurants, along with limits on private and public gatherings. 

More information as to Switzerland’s current measures can be found here

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‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?