Stricter Covid rules remain a possibility in Switzerland

Lukas Engelberger is president of the political coordination body for Switzerland's 26 cantonal public health directors. Keystone / Anthony Anex

A Swiss health official says stricter nationwide rules could be in the cards if epidemiological dynamics do not improve. But mandatory vaccination and restrictions on individuals who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 are considered, for now, a measure of last resort.

This content was published on December 5, 2021

The president of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors Lukas Engelberger says he does not rule out the general introduction of the so-called 2G rule (for Geimpfe and Genesene in German, i.e. only allowing people vaccinated or cured against Covid-19 to access certain areas).

The government on Friday gave the possibility to public establishments and event organisers to impose a 2G requirement and to restrict access to people who have tested negative for the coronavirus, Engelberger noted in an interview published Sunday by the German-language weekly SonntagsBlick.

Other measures could be rolled out if the 2G principle fails to bring the pandemic under control, added Engelberger, who is at the helm of the political coordination body for Switzerland's 26 cantonal public health directors. He said it may be necessary to extend the obligation to wear a mask or to limit capacity at venues.

Mandatory vaccination?

Mandatory vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 is another possibility. But the principle in Switzerland is that vaccination should be an individual decision, noted Christoph Berger, chairman of the Federal Commission for Vaccinations, in an interview with the NZZ am Sonntag. "A general vaccination obligation would violate this principle,” he told the German-language newspaper.

The commission believes compulsory vaccination can only be considered when all other measures, including lockdowns have proven ineffective.

Engelberger also believes that mandatory vaccination will not significantly increase the rate of vaccination against Covid-19. This approach could even backfire. 

”To impose mandatory vaccination, Switzerland would have to use such harsh methods that the relationship between citizens and the state would be severely damaged in the long run,” he said.

Last resort

Separately, Swiss President Guy Parmelin told public broadcaster SRF that the government will only consider measures that apply to unvaccinated individuals if the latest efforts to contain the pandemic fail.

Stricter rules are coming into force on Monday in Switzerland. They include a Covid certificate and mask requirement in all public areas.

“If this is of no use, the introduction of a 2G obligation would also be conceivable,” Parmelin said. This means only those who have been vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19 could access certain locations.

Some venues such as gyms or clubs are already gearing up to introduce the 2G rule as of next week so that they can drop the mask requirement.

Winter has triggered new Covid-19 waves across major Western economies, including Switzerland. Neighbouring Austria recently became the first nation on the European continent to re-enter a national lockdown in a bid to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

The emergence of a new variant – Omicron – has raised fears that the world is entering another difficult phase of the pandemic. 

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