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COVID-19 ALERT

UPDATE: Swiss to end quarantine and working from home obligation from Wednesday

Switzerland's quarantine rules and obligation to work from home will come to an end from Wednesday, February 2nd.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has announced a range of relaxations in the Covid measures for Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has announced a range of relaxations in the Covid measures for Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset announced the change at a press conference on Friday, January 28th. 

“We are in a good situation today. We can take steps forward” Berset said. 

Switzerland will remove the obligation to work from home which has been in place since late 2021. 

The quarantine rules will also be relaxed. 

The plan has currently been sent out to the cantons for consultation, however it is expected to be formalised from Wednesday onwards. 

The announcement comes despite Switzerland continually hitting record numbers of new Covid infections over the past few weeks.

READ MORE: Covid: One in ten Swiss infected in past week

Fortunately, hospitalisations and ICU admissions remain low, which experts believe is due to the less virulent nature of the Omicron variant, which now accounts for 90 percent of new infections. 

What are the measures being relaxed?

Under Switzerland’s current quarantine rules, those suspected to be infected with Covid must quarantine for five days. 

This measure applies to those with a ‘close contact’ to someone who has tested positive. Close contact is defined as “people who stay under the same roof and regularly use shared living space over a longer period of time”. 

This measure will be relaxed from Wednesday, February 2nd for fully vaccinated or recovered people. 

The isolation rule however will not be relaxed. This rule requires all of those who have tested positive for Covid to isolate (regardless of vaccination status). 

The obligation to work from home will also come to an end. This requirement, put in place on December 20th, required everyone who can work from home to do so all across Switzerland. 

READ MORE: What is Switzerland’s working from home obligation?

As of February 2nd, while working from home will still be recommended, it will no longer be required. 

Official measures are laid out here by the Swiss government

No ‘freedom day’ for Switzerland

Berset however said he wanted to avoid the term ‘Freedom Day’ for February 2nd. The term, which has been used in the United Kingdom, has been favoured by several Swiss politicians, particularly on the conservative end of the political spectrum. 

“It’s a warlike expression, other countries have thrown it around, not Switzerland.”

“It could be a happy day. Or happy days.” said Berset.

When asked about whether this signalled an end of the pandemic, Berset said he was cautiously optimistic. 

“Something can always happen. But the prospects are good.”

Berset also said there were no plans to get rid of the Covid certificate requirement at this stage. 

“The obligation to obtain a certificate applies worldwide. Being able to travel is also a certain form of freedom.”

Several politicians, particularly from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, have called for an end to the Covid certificate requirement. 

READ MORE: Should Switzerland abolish the Covid certificate?

While this is at this stage unlikely, there have been some indications the requirement could be relaxed. 

According to a report in Switzerland’s SonntagsZeitung newspaper from Sunday, January 30th, which the newspaper said is based on information received from federal authorities, the Covid certificate requirement in indoor venues like cafes and restaurants, as well as other places and events where it is currently compulsory, would be relaxed from February 16th.

The limit on the number of participants in private settings would also be lifted on that day, according to the report. Only the masks and testing of symptomatic people would reportedly remain compulsory under the plan.

These changes are set to be announced on February 2nd, SonntagsZeitung said, and would be implemented two weeks later, after a consultation with cantons.

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

READ MORE: Could Switzerland lift its Covid measures by February 16th?

Member comments

  1. Are the rules ending Feb 2? Your other article says « If the epidemiological situation allows it, the government will end some current coronavirus measures, such as and the obligation to work from home and the quarantine rules on February 2nd. ». This is confusing. Which article is correct?

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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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