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EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid quarantine rules?

With infections skyrocketing, why did Switzerland decide to relax the quarantine rules? 

A positive Covid antigen test seen up close. Photo by Medakit Ltd on Unsplash
A positive Covid antigen test seen up close. Photo by Medakit Ltd on Unsplash

On the same day the Swiss government announced the quarantine rule would be shortened, Switzerland recorded the highest ever number of cases in a 24-hour period: 32,881. 

However, although the situation is serious in some hospitals and ICUs in Switzerland, hospitalisations have not followed a parallel trend alongside case numbers as they did earlier in the pandemic. 

READ MORE: Why hospitalisations in Switzerland are not increasing despite soaring infections

The government indicated that the less dangerous nature of the Omicron strain allowed a relaxation of the quarantine rules. 

“People who have been vaccinated or have previously recovered from COVID-19 are far less likely to require hospital treatment after becoming infected with the Omicron variant than with the Delta variant.”

“The proportion of people admitted to hospital who have to be treated in intensive care is also lower.”

READ MORE: Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Clearly, by turning the screws on the country’s sizeable unvaccinated population, the government believes the pandemic can be brought to an end. 

“New scientific findings also confirm that the third vaccine dose significantly helps to prevent hospital admissions. Vaccination continues to offer the best protection against severe illness and long-term consequences.”

In addition, the high number of people in quarantine threatened to bring the country to a standstill. 

As The Local Switzerland reported earlier in January, more than 100,000 people are in quarantine, which placed significant risk on the country’s infrastructure and services. 

“Cantonal contact tracing capacity as well as the economy and society have come under increased pressure as the number of people affected by isolation and quarantine requirements has risen sharply in recent weeks.”

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer told SRF on Sunday “it is actually appropriate that we reconsider the quarantine period.”

Some cantons have shortened the quarantine from ten days to seven days, while Cantonal Health Directors are pushing for it to be further capped at five days. 

Maurer said the quarantine for coming into contact with a positive-tested person should be abolished completely, although there have been no further indications the Swiss government intends to do this. 

Covid-19: Most Swiss cantons shorten their quarantine requirements

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Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

Under a new plan put forth by the Swiss government, anyone who needs a booster shot for travel abroad should pay for it out of pocket.

Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

While Covid shots were previously free for everyone in Switzerland, with the Swiss government picking up the tab, the country has been reluctant to issue a recommendation for a second booster.

As The Local reported on Monday, this means that many people’s most recent shot will soon be more than nine months ago, which is the date at which many Covid passes expire. 

READ MORE: What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

Although evidence of vaccination is not required domestically in Switzerland any more, it may pose issues in travel. 

Since many countries still require a vaccination certificate for entry, and as the second round of boosters is not yet available in Switzerland, this means that a large number of people may not be able to travel abroad.

Swiss health authorities: Travellers should pay for Covid boosters themselves

According to newest recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), people travelling abroad who need second booster doses must pay for the shots themselves.

As the fourth vaccine dose is currently recommended only for people with a severely weakened immune system, everyone outside of this group will be charged as yet undefined fee.

The proposal was sent to the cantons for consultation until June 1st.

If agreed on, the Federal Council will adjust the Epidemics Ordinance accordingly on June 10th.