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Government moots more Covid measures, including partial closures

The hospitality sector looks set to take a hit once again. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

A week after tightening rules for certificates and mask-wearing, the government has proposed new measures to stem surging Covid-19 infections and ease the pressure on hospitals.

This content was published on December 10, 2021 - 19:21
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The situation remains “critical”, said President Guy Parmelin on Friday, as the government sent two possible scenarios for consultation by cantons before a decision will be taken next Tuesday.

The first scenario foresees a roll-out of the so-called “2G” rule, limiting entry to indoor public places – restaurants, bars, concert halls, cinemas etc. – to those who either are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or have recovered from it.

In this scenario, which would exclude unvaccinated people with a negative test from indoor activities, mask-wearing would also be compulsory. There would also be the obligation – in the case of restaurants and bars – to eat while sitting.

For nightclubs and other places where seated consumption isn’t possible, a stricter version of the rule could add the need to show evidence of a negative Covid-19 test to the existing obligation to prove vaccination or recovery.

Mini-shutdown?

The second scenario goes further, proposing a blanket closure of those places where wearing a mask is not possible, for example bars, restaurants, gyms and nightclubs. Indoor sports and cultural activities like cinemas and theatres would still be allowed to open, but with masks.

While this option is “extremely unpleasant”, Interior Minister Alain Berset told media in Bern, he said the goal remained to avoid wider closures and lockdowns and to keep searching for the “happy medium” between public health and socio-economic life.

“We already succeeded in getting on top of this situation a year ago, and we will get on top of it again, together, in the coming weeks,” Berset said.

High figures

Case numbers are currently at the highest point in about a year in Switzerland. On Friday, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) recorded 10,163 new cases, as well as 51 deaths. Intensive care units are 82% full, according to the FOPH’s dashboardExternal link.

Despite efforts by authorities to spur interest in the vaccination campaign, the Swiss are still among the most reluctant in Western Europe; as of Friday, some 68% of the population had received at least one vaccine dose, amounting to around 78% of the population aged 19 and above.

Also on Friday evening, Swissmedic, the Swiss medical regulator, approved the useExternal link of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11. The Federal Vaccination Commission has however not yet recommended extending the immunisation campaign to this group.

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Further measures

Meanwhile, beyond the two scenarios the government also proposed individual measures on Friday, including limiting private gatherings to five people, and making working from home mandatory, rather than just a recommendation. As for schools, currently hotbeds of infection, they have been urged to follow the example shown by various cantons recently in introducing mask-wearing across all levels, including primary.

The government also announced earlier on Friday that it would place members of the civil protection service at the disposal of cantons to help with personnel shortages, especially in the areas of vaccination and contact tracing efforts.

This follows another decision earlier this week to place some 2,500 army personnel on standby to support the struggling Swiss healthcare system should the pandemic intensify. At least one canton (Jura) has already taken advantage of this.

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