This week the government announced possible changes to Swiss Covid certificates aimed particularly at those who have recovered from the disease.
However, given the current situation, with schools reopening after the autumn break, winter approaching, the highly contagious Delta variant and a relatively low level of immunisation, the government said it had concluded that the risks are still too high for easing restrictions at present. To prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by another wave of infections, it intends to maintain the current certificate requirement for the time being and reassess the situation in mid-November.
More options for recovered
The Federal Council is looking at introducing a Covid certificate valid only in Switzerland. The concept is aimed at accommodating certain groups fearful of vaccination. For example, the new Swiss Covid certificate could accommodate those who have recovered but don’t have a positive PCR test proving infection. Instead, a positive antibody test would qualify them for a Swiss Covid certificate. These would be valid for 90 days with the official test subject to a fee.
In addition, the validity of certificates issued to those with a positive PCR test could be extended from180 to 365 days.
Easier access to certificates for tourists
Currently, the Covid certificates of tourists who have been vaccinated abroad are only valid in Switzerland and the EU if their vaccine was approved by Swissmedic or the EMA. To support the tourism sector and the economy, the government proposes allowing all tourists who have been vaccinated abroad with a vaccine approved only by the WHO to access to the Swiss certificate. The period of validity is to be limited to 30 days and the certificate would be valid only in Switzerland.
Discussion on lifting the certificate requirement
The Federal Council also held a lengthy discussion on lifting the certificate requirement. It intends to ease this requirement as soon as there is no longer a risk of hospitals becoming overburdened, irrespective of the vaccination rate. This is in keeping with its three-phase model. However, following a thorough analysis of the epidemiological risks, the Federal Council concluded that even a partial lifting of the certificate requirement would currently present too high a risk for the health system. The Federal Council’s continues to focus on keeping further waves of infections low enough to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed.
Delta variant causing more serious illness
Another factor is that the Delta variant is much more contagious than earlier variants and increases the risk of serious illness. As more people infected with the virus require intensive treatment, and for longer periods of time, this places an additional strain on ICU capacity. This became apparent towards the end of the summer, when hospitals experienced such a rapid increase in patients that operations had to be postponed in many places. While the higher level of immunisation is slowing down the circulation of the virus, it is still too low to prevent another high wave of infection, said the government.
The consultation will run until 26 October, and the Federal Council will decide on 3 November 2021. The government said it will reassess the situation in mid-November, when the effects of the cooler temperatures and school reopening can be evaluated.