Are even tougher COVID restrictions on the way in Switzerland?
After the recent announcement of new COVID restrictions for Switzerland, experts within the healthcare system have called for measures to be strengthened further. Amid a continued rise in hospitalisations, senior figures predict that new restrictions will not be too far away.
COVID hospitalisations in Switzerland increasing day on day
Monday saw some of the highest case and hospitalisation figures in recent months. Due to staff shortages in hospitals, some intensive care units are already being forced to triage or prioritise some patients over others. Director of the Epidemiology Centre in Ticino, Andreas Cerny, said he expected the numbers to get worse over the next week.
In what he described as a “salami tactic,” Cerny predicted new measures will be introduced gradually, week on week. He noted that, “We saw this in Austria. As the numbers worsened, new measures were gradually introduced." He said Austria had also tried similar measures to those announced by the Federal Council last week, but had to announce a lockdown shortly thereafter.
Possible new COVID restrictions in Switzerland
With rising infections and hospitalisations in mind, experts have come up with a list of recommendations for new COVID restrictions in Switzerland.
Ventilation and masks for Swiss schools
In the school system, Swiss political figures have called for more restrictions to be put in place. Cerny said he would have liked more Swiss-wide rules for education in the latest announcement, and National Councillor Martin Bäumle said he hoped schools would be monitored for air quality in classrooms.
Cantonal Doctor for Basel Stadt, Thomas Steffen, went one step further and called for compulsory mask-wearing from grades five and up. Experts have been calling for more measures in schools for months and some see the Christmas school holidays as the ideal time to set out new guidelines.
Introduction of FFP2 masks in public transport
The second idea proposed is for so-called FFP2 masks to be used in more settings like public transport. According to data from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, FFP2 masks are 75 percent more effective than regular masks at protecting against infection, as they provide better filtration.
This idea is not without issues, as Blick reported that FFP2 masks have sold out across the country, in response to the new set of restrictions. Coupled with supply issues, the Director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, Jürg Utzinger, said the public cannot be relied on to wear masks correctly, meaning a new rule may not have the desired effect.
Expansion of COVID certificates and a move to 2G
Along with new masks, some experts have called for an expansion of the COVID certificate. Utzinger noted that the current mix of certificate measures has not been successful and that if other restrictions fail, Switzerland will have to move to a 2G system across the board.
2G is where a COVID certificate is only valid for people who have been vaccinated against or are recovering from COVID-19. Steffen also called for a “rapid changeover” from 3G to 2G. Although some businesses like bars and restaurants can already use 2G, the issue remains highly controversial and is currently being discussed by the Federal Council.
Mandatory vaccination in Switzerland
Finally, the most controversial proposal is for mandatory vaccination. Currently, the Swiss Epidemics Act has no provision to enforce a vaccine mandate and the move would require an amendment to the law. The idea follows other countries like Austria, who have announced the vaccine will be compulsory from the end of February 2022.
This is highly unlikely to happen in Switzerland, as the idea will inevitably face legal challenges, and would almost certainly trigger a new referendum. Despite some in the government calling for it to be discussed, Switzerland remains a long way from enforcing the vaccine.
When will we know about new COVID restrictions?
Despite only announcing new restrictions last week, the Federal Council may bring forward new restrictions at any time. This may be announced in the official press conferences on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, or in a special session like last Friday.