Switzerland Extends Covid-19 Measures From Monday as it Faces Third Wave

With cases rising & some criteria not met, the majority of the lockdown measures will continue from today, Monday 22nd March. Ski resorts remain open. Cases are showing a worrying surge across many ski nations in Europe.

The Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset  said “we must unfortunately continue to be patient” and he added that “the situation is getting worse and we are at the start of a possible third wave.”

The goverment pointed to an increasing number of coronavirus cases and insufficient progress on vaccinations.

The forecast easing included opening restaurant terraces, allowing indoor sports and to let small crowds attend cultural & sporting events.

These will remain off limits for at least the next four weeks with April 14th set as the next date for further announcements.

From Monday March 22nd, private meetings of up to ten people are again allowed to take place – up from the current limit of five.

It will be a blow to the restaurants and bars in ski resorts that had hoped to be able to open their outside areas over the approaching Easter holiday period.

In recent weeks the government has been under heavy pressure from cantons, businesses and other interest groups to ease coronavirus measures.

The organisation, Swiss Olympic, opposes the government’s decision to extend the restrictions on sport.

It called it a “disappointing” outcome for the sports community.

Adults are still unable to train indoors with outdoor events not being allowed to admit spectators.

Swiss Olympic believes the lack of sporting activity is having a negative impact on the mental and physical well-being of people, and suggests easing restrictions would improve public health.

“In order to get going again after the crisis, society needs people who are physically and mentally fit,” said the Swiss Olympic President Jürg Stahl, in a statement.

“Sport creates the appropriate conditions for both and will therefore play an important role on the way back to normal.

“For the large number of amateur athletes, it is important to meet again at competitions after more than a year, to compete and maintain contacts.

“The clubs and their volunteer employees also flourish when it comes to organising competitions.”

The organisation also expressed hope that national competitions can return soon.

In its statement, Swiss Olympic said it would like a “corresponding decision” from the Federal Council as soon as possible and expressed its support for planning a safe return to sport in cooperation with the Government.

Switzerland has vaccinated 6.4% of its population.

Mr Berset said it was particularly important to keep things under control before Easter and said that Christmas gatherings had acted as super spreader events in some countries.

“We don’t want to prolong the crisis unnecessarily. In October we saw what a strong wave means. It then takes four to five months to come back from the high numbers. A year ago we were faced with a variant that was less contagious,” he said.

The criteria required to lift the restrictions was that the infection rate over 14 days should fall below 5%, occupancy of the intensive care units (ICU) by coronavirus patients should be below 25% and the R-rate must be below 1.

In Switzerland the infection rate is currently 5.1% and the R-rate is 1.14.

The occupancy of ICUs by Covid-19 patients is below the threshold, at 17.6%.

It is seeing 107 confirmed cases per 100,000 of population over 7-day period.

On Friday the Federal Office of Public Health reported 1,748 new Covid-19 cases – a rise of 15% compared to last week.

The government maintains that though cases are rising, the spread is under control.

The first phase of re-opening started at the beginning of March as we reported at the time.

A recent survey concluded that two thirds of people wanted restaurant terraces to re-open in time for Easter.

It also showed an increasing number of people agreeing with the government’s management of the pandemic.

The UK variant, more contagious and potentially at the origin of more serious complications, is now dominant and accounts for 80% of new infections detected in Switzerland.

If the re-opening happens too quickly, “the consequences would be serious in terms of health and the economy,” said the Conference of Cantonal Directors and Directors of Health.

It also advises people to take advantage of the new mass testing system, which is free to all, before meeting friends and relatives.

Switzerland has so far vaccinated about 12% of its population of 8.6 million.

Covid-19 is rising across many countries in Europe, with France introducing some tougher restrictions in some areas of the country at midnight on Friday.

Other alpine countries have cause for concern, with Italy seeing 263 cases per 100,000 people over a 7-day period.

In Austria it is 216.

In the ski nations of Eastern Europe the situation is more worrying and tighter restrictions are being introduced in the Czech Republic (708), Poland (352) and Bulgaria (296).

Further north in Scandinavia Sweden is seeing 291 cases.

While they are rising in Norway (112) and Finland (86).

In the Pyrenees Andorra is at 243 and Spain is doing well on 58.

The UK is seeing 59 new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people over a 7-day period.