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Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Tuesday

Find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Tuesday
An impasse in EU - Switzerland framework agreement negotitions. Photo by FRANÇOIS WALSCHAERTS / POOL / AFP

Vaud extends its vaccination programme to all ages

On Monday, the canton opened its vaccination programme to all the residents over the age of 18, placing Vaud ahead of other cantons in terms of progress in inoculations.

As soon as the announcement was made, 40,000 people tried to log into the online registration system at the same time, causing it to temporarily collapse.

Prior to Monday, only people 50 and over had access to vaccines in Vaud.

Two reasons are given for extending vaccinations to all adults, regardless of age or health status: the arrival of large quantities of doses and the opening of new vaccination centres.

Read our detailed article today about the status of Vaud’s and Switzerland’s vaccination campaign.

Stalled talks between Switzerland and the EU

Back from Brussels, where he went last week to negotiate the “framework agreement” between Switzerland and the EU, Swiss President Guy Parmelin said some issues still remain unresolved.

Among them are the free movement of people agreement and labour market regulations, including wages and access of EU nationals to Switzerland’s social security scheme.

“The Federal Council has always stated that Switzerland wishes to consolidate and develop its bilateral relationship with the European Union”, Parmelin said in a statement, adding that despite long-drawn negotiations “significant differences remain” between the two parties.

READ MORE: What’s at stake in Switzerland’s European Union negotiations?

Travel from India: A quarantine is not enough, Swiss politicians say

On Monday, Switzerland placed India on the quarantine list due to a highly infectious coronavirus mutation prevalent in the Asian country. 

However, several MPs have immediately reacted, saying an entry ban for all  travellers from India should also be imposed, the same way as flights from the UK were suspended in December when a British variant of the disease was detected in Switzerland.

“At least for non-essential travel, a ban is needed” said deputy Martin Bäumle.

 Another MP, Lorenz Hess, noted that  “Switzerland must react quickly and decisively when it comes to security precautions. India should not only be on the quarantine list, but the federal government must also suspend all travel from there”.

READ MORE: Switzerland places India on quarantine list effective immediately

Looking for an apartment in Geneva? You may have to pay a hefty fee to see it

Several relocation agencies in Geneva, where reasonably priced housing is hard to find, charge a fee for showing apartments and houses to potential tenants.

Media reported about this after a Geneva resident wishing to visit an apartment advertised on the agency’s site was told he could see it only if he paid 350 francs upfront.

The report outraged tenant rights organisations, which condemned the “unscrupulous practice” and warned apartment seekers not to pay these fees to relocation or real estate agencies.

The Local will have an article about this later today.

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.