Major relaxation of COVID measures announced in Switzerland
The Swiss Federal Council has decided to lift the requirement to work from home and has scrapped quarantine requirements for close contacts. They have also announced a wide range of further COVID relaxations, to be implemented in two weeks' time.
Contact quarantine and home working scrapped in Switzerland
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, the Swiss President, Ignazio Cassis, and Health Minister, Alain Berset, announced that from February 3, 2022, the requirement to work from home will be replaced by a recommendation and the obligation to quarantine as a close contact will be scrapped.
Although the five-day mandatory quarantine for close contacts of COVID cases is being lifted, the Federal Council emphasised that those who test positive for COVID must still self-isolate.
The president said that approximately 90 percent of the population are “immunised” - having been fully vaccinated and boosted or recovered from COVID-19. Alain Berset clarified that despite a continual rise in the number of infections, Swiss hospitals have not been overloaded and ICU admissions are down. Switzerland is “close to the endemic phase,” he added.
New COVID relaxations announced
In addition, the Federal Council has announced that it is submitting two new plans for the further lifting of COVID rules in the country. The president said that the current situation with coronavirus is encouraging, which is why more relaxations are being proposed.
Variant 1 involves scrapping most COVID restrictions immediately
The first plan, called “Variant 1”, would see all COVID-related restrictions lifted on February 17. This would include the 2G, 2G+ and 3G COVID certificate requirement, the obligation to wear a mask on public transport and publicly accessible indoor spaces, the restrictions on private gatherings and the COVID registration requirements for events.
Under Variant 1, people who have tested positive for COVID would still be required to self-isolate, and additional measures to protect the most vulnerable would be required. The Federal Council said that it would ask Swiss cantons whether any mask requirements should remain in place if Variant 1 is chosen, such as in healthcare and retail.
In order for Variant 1 to go ahead, the council said that the current Omicron wave must be on the decline, public immunisation should remain high and admissions to hospitals must decrease.
Variant 2 slows reopening to two stages
Variant 2, on the other hand, would lift COVID measures in two steps rather than a mass relaxation. This plan would be implemented if the current situation in hospitals remains “too uncertain.”
On February 17, under this plan, the certificate requirement would be scrapped for restaurants, events, leisure and cultural establishments (although mandatory seating in restaurants would remain). All restrictions on private gatherings would be lifted and areas that require a 2G+ certificate (like nightclubs, pools and intensive sports) would move to just 2G (fully vaccinated or recovered). The COVID certificate and registration requirement for events would be applied according to cantonal rules, rather than a federal approach. Those who test positive for COVID would still self isolate.
The second step would be the removal of all COVID related rules, such as mask requirements, 2G and COVID restrictions on indoor events. The date of this second step would be determined by the epidemiological situation in the country.
Swiss cantons to make a decision by February 9
The two variants have been submitted to the cantons, who will have their say on which plan they wish to follow. They have until February 9 to comment, after which the government will make a formal announcement, expected on February 10.