The Swiss government is facing increased pressure from businesses to suspend its current COVID restrictions, including work-from-home and quarantine regulations. However, the government is resolved to continue the measures until a review of the policies next week.
Health professionals and scientists, on the other hand, have condemned the suggestions as ineffective and premature.
The limits, according to a coalition of industry organizations and right-of-centre political parties, are “disproportionate” and unfit for improving the situation for enterprises and society.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the prominent Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, stated, “Many sectors of the business community and the population are suffering enormously,”
According to a report, several other speakers, including those from the event and hotel industries, urged that the Covid health certificate should be removed. To enter indoor public facilities such as restaurants, movies, and gyms, a passport is required.
Expect significant damage if COVID restrictions are lifted
Lifting the COVID restrictions, according to Urs Karrer of the Covid-19 scientific task team, might create significant damage. “It would be tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said during a press conference.
According to studies, roughly 40% of Swiss firms are impacted by employee absences due to illness, and easing limits would not help better the situation, according to Jan-Egbert Sturm, an economist and senior member of the task group.
According to Patrick Mathys of the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, the newest wave of illnesses has yet to reach its height in Switzerland.
“It would be too risky to suspend the curbs now,” he said, adding that while Switzerland had one of Europe’s worst infection rates, hospital admissions had not increased as expected.
“We can’t yet explain this,” Mathys remarked. He further stated that the number of cases might continue to climb tremendously in the coming days.
COVID restrictions extended until the end of February
The most recent COVID restrictions were imposed in December and have been prolonged until the end of February at the very least. According to the government, the high frequency of new infections with the Covid Omicron variant is placing the country’s hospitals under continuing strain.
According to the most recent official numbers, the seven-day average of infections has risen to over 33,500 cases, with nearly 2,000 individuals in hospital with Covid.
People who have been infected with Covid, as well as those who live with them, must be quarantined or isolated for at least five days under current standards. Staff shortages have resulted as a result of the actions in all industries.
The government stated that it will conduct an assessment of the issue the following week.
The Swiss government has opted to maintain existing anti-Covid regulations in place until the end of next month, as well as additional limitations on public life until March.
Because of the unclear COVID situation in Switzerland, the required work-from-home rule as well as the coronavirus quarantine, which were implemented in mid-December, will be maintained.
Other COVID restrictions, such as restricting access to indoor public areas such as restaurants, cultural and sporting events, and requiring the wearing of masks, will be in force until the end of March.
At a press conference last week, Interior Minister Alain Berset stated, “The current measures have proven efficient and the situation in hospitals seem under control.”
Berset, on the other hand, cautioned that the pandemic was still unexpected.
“We have to go the whole way, there aren’t any shortcuts,“ he explained. “We don’t know how the latest wave will develop.”
The government first planned prolonging the limitations until the end of March, but after facing opposition from cantonal authorities and other organizations, it modified its intentions.
Review of COVID restrictions
Berset said the government will assess the situation in early February and determine if the severe measures, such as restricting the size of public and private meetings, are still necessary.
“The aim of the Swiss government’s policy has always been to lift curbs as soon as possible,” he stated.
He went on to say that finding the correct balance between avoiding the health-care system from collapsing and keeping commercial interests in mind has always been a challenge.
In accordance with the European Union, the government declared on Wednesday that the validity of the Covid health certificate will be reduced from 365 to 270 days.
It has also agreed to relax the Covid testing requirements for those who have been vaccinated or who have recovered from coronavirus and desire to enter Switzerland.
Due to a scarcity of medical lab capacity and a large volume of tests, Swiss authorities have implemented new guidelines that prioritize sick persons and those who pose a health risk. Travel-related tests will be rescheduled.
Health experts voiced fear that the wave fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant might overwhelm the healthcare system.
According to the Federal Office of Public Health, 68 percent of the Swiss population has had two immunizations and 35 percent has received a booster shot.
Covid situation Switzerland in a glimpse
- Switzerland’s coronavirus quarantine and work-from-home limitations will be extended until the end of February, and the government aims to maintain additional public-life COVID restrictions in place until the end of March.
- People who have been vaccinated or recovered with Covid-19 do not need to submit a negative PCR or fast antigen test before entering Switzerland as of January 22. People who have not been vaccinated or who have not recovered from the disease will still be required to take a test in order to enter the country. Travelers, on the other hand, will no longer be required to take a second test four to seven days after arriving in the nation.
- The fifth wave of the pandemic is presently underway in Switzerland, with the number of new daily coronavirus infections hitting historic highs thanks to the fast-spreading Omicron variant: 37,992 new cases were reported during the preceding 24-hour period on January 21. Admissions to hospitals are at a steady level. 240 Covid-19 patients are currently in intensive care.
- The Omicron wave, which is responsible for 90% of new infections in Switzerland, has reached a plateau, according to Virginie Masserey of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). Young people and employees are the prime targets of new infections. The worst-affected areas are now Canton Ticino and Lake Geneva. According to Masserey, the number of cases will most likely rise, although at a slower rate.
- To avoid the economy succumbing to personnel shortages, the government agreed to reduce the quarantine and isolation periods to five days from January 12, with only those in close contact with an infected individual subject to the guidelines.
- Only persons who have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid-19 are allowed to enter restaurants, cultural, sporting, and recreational facilities, or attend indoor activities (the so-called “2G rule”), as of December 20. Work-from-home requirements have also been reinstated. If there is one individual under the age of 16 who is unvaccinated or has not recovered from Covid-19, private meetings are limited to 10 persons.
- Swiss health experts have suggested that booster vaccinations, which began with the most susceptible, be extended to anybody aged 12 and up, ideally with the mRNA Pfizer/Biontech vaccine. Approximately 68 percent of the population has received two vaccination doses. A booster injection was given to around three million people.
- In Switzerland, where the population is 8.6 million, more than 12,100 individuals have died as a result of Covid-19.