Swiss government under pressure to cut quarantine over Omicron
The Swiss government is under renewed pressure to cut the amount of time that people with COVID-19 and close contacts of those who have recently tested positive for coronavirus are required to quarantine, to prevent workforce shortages.
Several Swiss cantons have already changed quarantine rules
Over the past week, pressure has been growing for the Swiss government to change the rules on quarantine, especially after several Swiss cantons already paved the way for shorter quarantines at a local level. Last week, a number of cantons announced a cut in the length of the quarantine period, but there is yet to be action at a national level.
Cantonal health officials from the east of the country are among the most vocal to have written to the government asking for change. They propose new cuts to quarantine and self-isolation periods, so that people who have tested positive, and their close contacts, only have to remain at home for five days, rather than the current 10, to enable people to get back to work more quickly.
The request comes amidst mounting scientific evidence that the incubation period - the time between infection and when a person starts showing symptoms - of the new Omicron variant of the virus could be shorter than with previous mutations of COVID-19. If preliminary studies are confirmed, the new incubation period could be as short as two or three days, thus shortening the total length of time that a person may be infectious.
Swiss government changes COVID-19 PCR rules
The national government has already made steps to simplify the quarantine process by announcing an end to the requirement to have positive rapid (antigen) tests confirmed by having a second, more reliable, PCR test. The announcement, which was made on January 7, has come as a welcome break for the Swiss healthcare system, especially heavily-burdened testing centres that saw huge increases in the number of people arriving for tests during the public holidays over Christmas and New Year.
While previously, only cases recorded from PCR testing centres would be reported as official cases, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health has confirmed that the results from rapid tests will now be counted as official cases, too, and that there is no longer a need to confirm rapid tests by having a PCR.
A spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Health attempted to reassure people about the accuracy of rapid tests in an interview on Friday, adding that anyone who tests positive on a rapid test device “is very highly likely to be genuinely infected." The spokesperson went on to add that false positives on the devices are extremely unlikely given the current epidemiological situation.