An optimistic vision starting to emerge? After Israel, which changes its strategy, Spain, which could soon consider the coronavirus as the flu, it is Switzerland which resonates with a reassuring speech. The Omicron variant could be “the beginning of the end” of the Covid-19 pandemic, estimated the Swiss government on Wednesday, which out of prudence wishes to extend the measures taken to stem the fifth wave until the end of March.
On the eve of a decisive turning point?
“We are perhaps on the eve of a turning point which could be decisive with the passage from a pandemic phase to an endemic phase, with immunity reached in the population which is reaching levels which are now high”, declared the Minister of Health, Alain Berset, at a press conference. “The Omicron may be the beginning of the end – we don’t know – of this pandemic,” he said. When taking vaccination and cures into account, the immunity rate for those over 20 is over 90%, and even reaches 97% for those over 80, he explained.
Like the rest of the planet, Switzerland has not escaped the fifth wave, even if hospital capacities are not yet overloaded. According to government experts, the Omicron variant accounts for around 90% of infections. “Omicron is very contagious, less dangerous, but that’s no reason to let our guard down. But this is not a reason to fall into alarmism either, ”said Alain Berset.
Quarantine reduced to five days
During today’s meeting, the Federal Council (the government) decided to shorten the duration of isolation for Covid patients from ten to five days. In order to be able to come out of isolation, it will not be necessary to show any symptoms for forty-eight hours, as is already the case.
The quarantine of contact cases is also reduced to five days. Since January, several cantons had already reduced this quarantine to seven days. It is also limited “to people who live together or have had comparable, close and regular contact with a person who tested positive”. Those who have been cured or vaccinated for less than four months are exempt. “The situation remains fragile, however. We have an increase in contaminations which will lead to an increase in hospitalizations, as we can see in other countries ”, underlined the Minister of Health.
The restrictions still extended until the end of March
Faced with the fifth wave of Covid-19, and in order to limit if possible contagions linked to Omicron, Switzerland decided on December 17 to limit access inside certain establishments to only vaccinated or cured people (rule of 2G), restrict the number of participants in private meetings, make teleworking compulsory and reinforce the obligation to wear a mask. These measures were to end on January 24, but “in view of the hospital situation which remains tense”, the government proposes to extend them until the end of March.
In order to maintain the recognition of the Covid certificate by the European Union, the Federal Council also wishes to shorten the period of validity of all vaccination certificates from 365 to 270 days. The Alpine country, which has some 8.6 million inhabitants, has recorded more than 12,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic, or nearly 139 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants. Some 67% of the population is fully vaccinated, less than in other Western European countries.