On 30 June 2021, Switzerland’s Federal Council discussed ways of preparing Switzerland for the autumn and winter months and a possible renewed rise in the number of coronavirus cases.
From the meeting ministers produced a report setting out various scenarios and response plans.
The key elements are rapid identification of new variants of concern, continued progress with vaccination and a focus on ensuring sufficient capacity for testing and contact tracing at the cantonal level.
While the epidemiological situation in Switzerland has improved significantly in recent months, the Federal Council envisages three possible ways the epidemic could develop in the coming months.
All three scenarios are based on the assumption that the virus will remain and become endemic. Those who are not vaccinated are expected to eventually become infected by the virus.
Under this scenario, case numbers would remain at a low level with possible small outbreaks that would cause case numbers to rise slightly due to seasonal factors, but not lead to a significant burden on the healthcare system. Under this scenario the measures still in place could be lifted and the crisis would be over.
Under this scenario, case numbers would rise in the autumn or winter at the latest. This could occur for a number of reasons which include a sizeable proportion of people not vaccinating, the lifting of measures, seasonal effects or the appearance of new, more infectious virus variants. Under this scenario the increase in cases would place a heavy burden on the healthcare system and certain basic government measures would need to remain in place or be reintroduced, such as the requirement to wear masks or social distancing. Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.
Under this scenario, one or more new virus variants would emerge against which vaccination or prior infection no longer provide protection or offer significantly less protection. There is a new wave of the pandemic. Strong government intervention and renewed vaccination would be required.
Medium-term planning efforts by the federal government and the cantons are focused on scenario 2.
The focus is on rapidly identifying new virus variants of concern, promoting and progressing vaccination, preparing for booster shots, providing fast free testing for those with symptoms, maintaining contact tracing capacity and hospital capacity.
So far the UK is holding up well against the Delta variant, which makes up most new cases there. Switzerland is only around 5 weeks behind the UK on vaccine roll out where 66% of the population had received at least one dose and nearly 50% were fully vaccinated.
The Federal Council also decided to transfer implementation of its programme to promote the development of medicines to treat COVID-19 to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and Innosuisse. The programme is intended to promote research, development and production of medicines against COVID-19 for safe and rapid distribution to the Swiss population.