Swiss government plans to tighten national Covid rules

Health Minister Alain Berset said the new variant had the potential to be more contagious and escape immunity but little was yet known on how dangerous it is, and there was no reason to panic. Keystone / Peter Schneider

The government is planning to tighten anti-coronavirus measures across Switzerland, saying that while little is yet known about the new Omicron Covid variant it does not wish to lose time against this new threat.

This content was published on December 1, 2021 - 08:54

A series of measures have been put forward for consultation with the cantons, it announcedExternal link after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday. These include: extension of the obligation to show a Covid certificate, which indicates whether the holder is fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid or tested negative; extension of mask-wearing obligations; and either a recommendation or obligation to work from home for those who have neither been vaccinated nor recovered.

The consultation will last until the evening of Wednesday December 1. It is unclear when they might come into force. The new measures are proposed to last until January 24, Health Minister Alain Berset told a press conference in Bern.

Both he and Guy Parmelin, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, stressed that getting vaccinated was still the fundamental element to fight the virus. Around 65% of the population are vaccinated. They also urged citizens to continue with existing health measures such as mask wearing, hand washing and opening windows to air indoor spaces. The validity of the Covid certificate could also be reduced, depending on test results. 

Parmelin said it was the government's duty to "protect the whole population" in view of the new situation. Berset told the press conference the proposed measures were much less harsh than last winter and were known to be effective. The aim, he said was to prevent a winter of business closures and overburdened hospitals.

The coronavirus situation in Switzerland has worsened in the past few weeks as the vaccination rate stagnates and the cold weather brings more people indoors. On Tuesday, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reported 8,422 new cases in the last 24 hours, with 22 more deaths and 138 Covid patients hospitalised.

Switzerland has tightened entry restrictions to check the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, imposing a flight banExternal link on direct flights from southern African countries. It has also imposed a negative test when boarding a fight and quarantine for ten days for travellers from over 20 countries External linkthat have seen cases of the new Omicron variant.

Switzerland confirmed three cases of the new Omicron variant on its territory on December 1. 

Federal government empowered

The federal government had previously recommended that cantons tighten restrictions as they saw fit, as Covid numbers rose. A number of cantons have done so. But both Parmelin and Berset stressed that the new variant, of which the government became aware last Thursday, had changed the situation.

The federal government has also been empowered by Sunday's popular vote, in which a clear majority backed its Coronavirus policy, including the controversial Covid certificate.

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