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Switzerland: ‘Hundreds of thousands’ of Covid certificates to expire on Tuesday

Due to shorter validity, hundreds of thousands of Covid certificates are set to expire on February 1st.

A poster informs people of the need for a Covid certificate
A poster informs people of the need for a Covid certificate. Image: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In mid-January, the Swiss government announced it was shortening the duration of Covid certificates from one year to nine months, with the change set to come into effect on February 1st. 

The reason for the shorter 270-day duration of the certificate is new evidence about the duration of protection from either vaccination or contracting the virus and recovering. 

As a result of this change, hundreds of thousands of certificates are set to expire on February 1st – with many of those unaware their certificates are now invalid. 

Anyone who received their second dose before May 2021 and has not received a booster will no longer have a valid certificate from Tuesday onwards. 

While exact figures on the number of certificates set to expire have not been made available by Swiss authorities, state news agency SRF estimates at least 250,000 certificates will become invalid overnight. 

Covid certificates are currently required for visiting bars and restaurants in Switzerland, while they are also a requirement of international travel. 

They are not required to sit outside on terraces and balconies of restaurants, nor is the Covid certificate required to go skiing. 

Gastrosuisse President Kasimir Platzer told SRF he was concerned the hospitality sector would take another hit when people were turned away for having invalid Covid certificates. 

Many people in Switzerland struggled to get a booster shot in the early days of 2021 but boosters are now more available on a widespread basis. 

How much longer will the Covid certificate be required? 

Due to the stable situation in Swiss hospitals and the apparently more mild impact of the Omicron variant, Swiss authorities are considering a widespread relaxation of measures. 

In late January, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said further relaxations could be likely from February 16th, although he declined to state which were being considered. 

Berset already announced on Friday that quarantine rules for contact cases and obligation to work from home will come to an end from Wednesday, February 2nd, but warned the pandemic was not yet over. 

According to a report in Switzerland’s SonntagsZeitung newspaper on Sunday, the Covid certificate requirement in indoor venues like restaurants, as well as other places and events where it is currently compulsory, would be abolished on February 16th.

The newspaper said the report was based on information received from federal authorities. 

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

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What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

In the coming months, millions of Covid certificates are set to expire in Switzerland. What will the government do about it?

What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

As certificates are valid for nine months after the second vaccine dose or a booster, “millions of Swiss Covid certificates will expire by autumn at the latest”, according to Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes.

As many Swiss received their most recent shot in late 2021, the nine-month period will soon be coming to an end. 

Although this is not a problem domestically as proof of vaccination is no longer required in Switzerland, it may pose issues for travel. 

Since many countries still require a vaccination certificate for entry, and as the second round of boosters is not yet available in Switzerland,  this means that a large number of people may not be able to travel abroad.

And while other countries have already started to administer second booster shots, Swiss health authorities are dragging their feet, not having even issued a recommendation for the fourth dose yet.

This worries some MPs, who are calling on the government to make second boosters available soonest possible.

“The past has shown that cantons are not always sufficiently prepared. Something like this mustn’t happen again”, said MP Fabian Molina, adding that anyone travelling abroad should be able to be re-vaccinated if they wish. 

Another deputy, Yvonne Feri, noted that the federal government and the cantons have to prepare to vaccinate again within a short period of time.

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