COVID at carnival: Politicians argue to keep restrictions as variants emerge

COVID at carnival: Politicians argue to keep restrictions as variants emerge

Politicians in Switzerland have called for new mask and distance rules for events in Switzerland, after the carnivals in Basel and Lucerne led to a significant spike in cases. There is also concern that new variants have started to emerge across the country, including a new fusion of the Delta and Omicron variants.

COVID cases rise following Fasnacht in Switzerland

Data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has shown that COVID cases in Basel and Lucerne skyrocketed after each city celebrated its carnival. It comes amid increasing COVID cases and hospital admissions across Switzerland, according to the latest report from the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force.

Currently, most COVID restrictions in Switzerland have been scrapped, with a mask mandate on public transport and in Swiss healthcare as well as a requirement to self-isolate after a positive test being the only precautionary measures in place. Now, with cases rising once again, politicians have called for more rules.

Some Swiss politicians call for COVID rules to be extended

“We have a responsibility towards people at risk,” said National Councillor Yvonne Feri. She criticised the decision to move forward with scrapping the remaining restrictions by the end of March, saying that just because other events have removed COVID from the headlines, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem.

Feri called on the government to keep the mask mandate on public transport, the obligation to isolate and to impose limits on the capacity of major events and festivals. For her, “Learning to live with the virus also means getting used to using masks or other measures.”

Normality and personal responsibility the goal, others argue

As cases continue to rise, not everyone in parliament agrees that keeping restrictions is the answer. National Councillor Marcel Dobler asserted, "As far as I'm concerned, all measures could already be lifted. The rising temperatures will have a decisive impact on the spread of the virus. Deciding on measures again in the spring that would only take effect in around two weeks would be completely wrong.”

He said that getting back to normality and personal responsibility were the main goals, as the situation in hospitals remains positive for the time being. He concluded that people already know that they should stay home if they have symptoms and did not need regulations to coax them.

What do we know about the two new COVID variants in Switzerland?

So far, two new variants have emerged in Switzerland in recent weeks, according to the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force. The first is a fusion of the Delta and Omicron variants, colloquially named Deltacron. “There is currently no evidence that this mutation could spread quickly,” said task force member Richard Neher. He assured the public that the high level of immunity in the population will make the variant easier to deal with.

The second, more prevalent variant is BA.2, also known as Omicron’s “little brother.” This variant is much more contagious than Omicron but is no more virulent for vaccinated people. It is widely expected that this variant will replace Omicron as the dominant strain in Switzerland.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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