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COVID-19 CERTIFICATE

Switzerland: Pressure grows to relax Covid measures

Despite skyrocketing Covid numbers, Switzerland’s hospitals and all-important ICUs remain relatively stable. Voices calling for a relaxation of Covid measures are growing louder.

A police officer checks a person's Covid pass through the window of a car
Is it time for Switzerland to phase out Covid measures? Photo: ERWIN SCHERIAU / APA / AFP

On Wednesday, January 26th, Switzerland recorded 43,199 confirmed Covid cases. This is the first time the number of confirmed cases has crossed 40,000. 

Despite this grim milestone however, Swiss experts believe the actual number of daily infections to be above 100,000 – with an estimated ten percent of the population getting infected over the previous week. 

READ MORE: One in ten Swiss infected in past week

While such a rapid increase remains a cause for concern, the increase in cases has not been accompanied by a similar rise in hospitalisations and ICU admissions. 

The situation in Switzerland’s hospitals remains serious but steady, according to recent reports. 

This is largely due to the lower potency of the highly transmissible Omicron variant, which represents 90 percent of new cases across Switzerland. 

Most notably, despite the spread of the new variant, only a handful of people have been admitted to hospital due to the Omicron variant. 

READ MORE: Reasonably optimistic’: Are Switzerland’s Covid hotspots cooling down at last?

As a result, calls are growing for the remaining measures to be dropped in Switzerland. 

Swiss hospitality groups Expo-Event and Gastrosuisse have called for the declaration of February 2nd as ‘Freedom Day’, whereby the existing measures are lifted. 

Andri Silberschmidt, from the Free Democrats, has called for a relaxation of the Covid certificate to again allow ‘3G’ rules, i.e. negatively tested people to again attend bars, restaurants and events. 

Silberschmidt, aged 27, also called for the mask mandates and the Covid certificate only to apply to people aged 25 and over. 

His counterpart Hans-Ulrich Bigler said the changes should go even further, including the abolition of the country’s Covid task force. 

Member’s of Switzerland’s right-wing Swiss People’s Party have also called for a relaxation, including the complete abolition of the Covid certificate. 

Jürg Grossen, President of the Green Liberals, said such changes were hasty and neglected to acknowledge the unpredictability of the pandemic up until this point. 

“We have learned in this pandemic that it almost always turns out differently than expected.”

Martin Bäumle, also of the Green Liberals, said the currently stable situation was due to the measures. 

“One thing is certain: If you relax the measures now, the numbers will rise again.”

Franziska Ryser, of the Greens, said the “worst thing for the hospitality industry would be for them to stop after getting started again”. 

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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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