Today, Switzerland’s federal government set a date for allowing gatherings of more than 1,000 people, something currently banned as part of a government effort to contain the spread of Covid-19.
At its meeting on 12 August 2020, the Federal Council, Switzerland’s cabinet, took the decision to re-allow events of more than 1,000 people from 1 October 2020. Events of more than 1,000 people have been banned in Switzerland since 28 February 2020.
The government has been under pressure to allow sporting, cultural and religious events to restart. The current ban expires on 31 August 2020, so the restart date of 1 October 2020 means the current ban will be extended by one month.
Event organisers will be required to follow strict protective measures and events will have to be authorised by the cantons, based on the local epidemiological situation and local contact tracing capacity. The cantonal authorities may refuse to grant a permit if the local epidemiological situation or their contact tracing capacities do not allow it.
The announcement comes on a day when the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced Switzerland’s highest daily rate of recorded new infections since April 2020.
In addition, it is still unclear exactly how the virus spreads. The main form of transmission appears to be through direct or indirect contact with the saliva, respiratory secretions and respiratory droplets of infected people, which are expelled when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks or sings, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
However, recently the WHO conceded that airborne transmission might also be possible in some environments, something that could be particularly problematic when large numbers of people are gathered together in enclosed spaces. Airborne transmission involves infection from tiny particles that travel further than droplets and potentially hang in the air of enclosed spaces for hours if they are not swept away by appropriate ventilation. Unfortunately, the science around this is not definitive.
Jacques Fellay, an expert in the human genomics of infectious diseases at EPFL and a member of Switzerland’s federal Covid-19 task force, is concerned about how people gathering indoors might impact infection numbers over autumn and winter.