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

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 Wednesday
Tne epidemiological situation is improving thanks in part to vaccinations. Photo by Philippe LOPEZ / AFP

The pandemic in Switzerland is diminishing, experts say

“The epidemiological situation is reassuring”, Virginie Masserey, head of the infection control section at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), said at a press conference.

She added that over the past two weeks, “there has been a stabilisation of new infections and hospitalisations, which does not contradict the decision to allow cautious re-openings” of the economy.

Masserey attributed the improving situation to factors such as vaccination, more time spent outdoors, and more tests, which help control the spread of the virus. “But there is no guarantee that it will continue like this,” she warned.

Hundreds of Canadian nurses could lose their Swiss jobs 

For years, Vaud hospitals have been employing nurses from Quebec, as there is shortage of Swiss-trained nursing staff.

However, from August 1st, 2021 their Canadian diplomas will no longer be recognised in Switzerland, as the training they received is less extensive :  2,500 hours in Canada, against 5,500 in Switzerland.

For this reason, these nurses will lose their status and will be relegated to community health aides instead, unless cantonal authorities modify the rules.

At least one MP sides with the nurses.

“It’s a simple question of consistency: we cannot recruit qualified foreign workers and then expel them from our labour market for no valid reason”, said Vaud councillor Jean- François Chapuisat.

Enough signatures collected for same-sex marriage referendum

The Federal Chancellery said that opponents of the same-marriage law had collected 61,027 valid signatures to bring the issue to a vote — more than the 50,000 required to launch a referendum.

On December 2020, Swiss parliament approved same-sex marriage, but conservative groups like the Swiss People’s Party and the Federal Democratic Union vowed to repeal the legislation, arguing that marriage “must remain the natural union of a man and a woman”.

The date of the referendum has not yet been set

READ MORE: Switzerland to hold same-sex marriage referendum

Village cannon under fire in Solothurn

A weapons collector from Günsberg filed a request with the Village Construction Commission to install a functioning cannon on his property.  His neighbours and local parish are up in arms over this idea.

“A cannon in the middle of the village looks very threatening”, said one resident, who added that she’d have to walk by the weapon on her way to get her mail or do her shopping.

The local parish also shot down this idea, arguing that the presence of a cannon in the village would “convey a negative image”.

The collector responded that if he can’t install the cannon in front of his house, “it will have to stay on a trailer, 15 metres away”.

Or, he can just get a garden gnome.

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.