Official recognition for Jura-based French dialect

Switzerland’s government has decided to recognise the dialect spoken in canton Jura as an official minority language.

Official recognition for Jura-based French dialect

Up to 4,000 people are said to speak or understand ‘Patois jurassien’ and it is hoped that the government will now sanction funding for initiatives to help keep the language alive.

Made at the start of December, the decision follows a recommendation from the Council of Europe and its Charter on regional/minority languages.

The Swiss federal government already recognises the dialects in cantons Valais, Fribourg and Vaud as minority Swiss languages.

However, these are all said to be “Franco-Provençal” rather than “Franc-Comtois” like the Jura dialect.

All are derivatives of French, which is an official Swiss language and said to be the main language of nearly 25% of Swiss nationals.  

Read more: 8 reasons Swiss-French is better than French-French

Both “Franco-Provençal” and “Franc-Comtois” belong to the Gallo-Romance classification but “Franc-Comtois” is an oïl language – traditionally spoken in Northern and Central France, southern Belgium and, of course, Switzerland.

The Swiss government also recognises Romansh and Italian as minority languages, as well as Yenish and Yiddish as languages that are not territorially tied.

In March 2018, a report from the Council of Europe said that Switzerland must do more to protect its minority languages – in particular Romansh. 

Said to be spoken by as many as 60,000 people in Switzerland, Romansch is a cantonal language in Graubünden alongside German and Italian. 

Read more: 18 interesting facts about Switzerland's fourth language, Romansh

Switzerland has four official languages; German, French, Italian and Romansh. 

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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.