With an infection rate that refuses to budge, Switzerland’s federal government decided today it would like to extend the current restrictions until the end of February 2021. It also announced it would remove cantonal exceptions and apply federal restrictions universally across the whole country from 9 January 2021.
The Federal Council plans to discuss extending restrictions introduced on 22 December 2020 with the cantons and will announce a final decision on 13 January 2021. The Federal Council plans to extend restrictions were set to end on 22 January 2021 until the end of February.
Possible new restrictions, such as a requirement to work from home, shop closures and further restrictions on gatherings, will also be discussed with the cantons. Cantons will also be asked to consider possible school closures, should these be required.
The cantonal exemption, where cantons with low infection and reproduction rates could keep more open, will end on 9 January 2020. The Federal Council wants to prevent shopping and dining tourism between cantons, something that occurred last year when Geneva closed shops and restaurants. The number of Geneva-plated cars circulating in neighbouring Vaud shot up overnight.
Ski lifts are currently allowed to continue operating. Swiss Ski lift operators have seen their income fall 26% so far this season compared to 2019 and will be hoping they can continue to operate.
On 6 January 2021, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reported 4,808 new cases of Covid-19. This result is based on 31,709 tests with a positivity rate of 15%. At close to 5,000 new daily infections and with hospitals intensive care units running at 75% capacity, the government is concerned the situation could get out of hand.
In addition, the current number of infections does not adequately reflect the true epidemiological situation, said the government. Although the number of cases has decreased somewhat over the last few days, significantly fewer tests have been carried out, it said. The new more infectious variants that have arrived in Switzerland from South Africa and the UK are causing concern too. The emergence of the UK variant coincides with a steep rise in infections in the UK. To what extent this is driven by the changes identified in the virus remains unclear.
Vaccination is underway in Switzerland, although some cantons such as Bern (0) and Vaud (100 vaccinated) are well behind others such as Valais (785), Geneva (661) and Fribourg (1,060). Zurich started vaccination on 4 January 2020, and has enough doses to vaccinate 8,000 people.