‘Not being vaccinated should have consequences’: The verdict on Switzerland’s Covid certificate expansion

The Swiss government’s plan to make the Covid certificate mandatory to gain entry to restaurants, gyms and private parties divides opinion, but our poll revealed most readers back the proposal believing there must be consequences for those who are not jabbed.

'Not being vaccinated should have consequences': The verdict on Switzerland's Covid certificate expansion
Local readers broadly supported a Covid certificate requirement. Photo: Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

The Covid-19 certificate – otherwise known as the Covid-19 pass or the green pass – is available in paper and digital form. 

The pass “provides documentary evidence that you have had a COVID-19 vaccination, have had and recovered from the disease or have tested negative”. 

Switzerland will expand its Covid certificate requirement from Monday, September 13th. 

While previously the certificate was required only for events, nightclubs and travel, from Monday it will be required in bars, restaurants, gyms and for some private gatherings. 

See the following link for specifics. 

EXPLAINED: What will Switzerland’s expanded Covid certificate look like?

The Local asked readers its views on the Swiss government’s proposal in a survey on our website and we were inundated with responses.

Dozens more replied on social media, showing how controversial and high-profile the issue is in Switzerland. 

What is the proposal? 

Amid rising case numbers and hospitalisations with Covid-19, the Swiss government has proposed tightening Covid certificate rules. 

Under the proposal, a valid Covid certificate would be required to enter indoor areas of bars, restaurants, as well as hairdressers, cosmetic services, gyms and some private events. 

Currently, Covid certificates – which show if someone is vaccinated, recovered or tested negative – are required for nightclubs, discos and events with more than 1,000 people in Switzerland. Covid certificates are also required for travel in some instances.

Switzerland’s Covid certificate rules are currently out of step with most of its neighbours, where some form of Covid health pass is required to enter indoor and outdoor areas of various businesses and establishments. 

Swiss authorities say this is a necessary move to help things get back to normal and to encourage vaccination. 

What do our readers think about it? 

The poll asked a simple yes or no question about whether people supported the plan to extend the certificate or not. 

66.5 percent said they agreed with the expansion, while 29.7 percent said they did not. 

3.8 percent of respondents told us they were not sure how they felt about the issue. 

Why do people support requiring Covid certificates?

There were several reasons for why people supported the expansion, most of which revolved around safety, responsibility and getting back to normal. 

Several readers told us they felt getting vaccinated was about acting responsibly to protect the most vulnerable in society, while others simply said they wanted the pandemic to be over. 

One of the most prominent responses related to safety. 

Vicky, from Geneva, she’d feel safer with a Covid pass. 

“Currently in Geneva the lack of a Covid passport is attracting unvaccinated French over the border to avoid the Vax passport in France”.

The theme of social responsibility came through strong, particularly among those who were concerned that the vaccinated could be subjected to lockdowns again purely due to the acts of the unvaccinated. 

Kelly, also from Geneva, said it was unfair to the vaccinated – particularly if there is another lockdown. 

“Those who are vaccinated will have to pay the price of stricter measures because of those who are unvaccinated, which is unfair.”

“Choosing not to get vaccinated should have consequences for the individual, as it has consequences for the rest of society. More importantly, keeping the virus circulating by refusing vaccination puts all of our children at risk, and our entire healthcare system under stress.”

The proposal to make the Covid certificate mandatory has been put forward largely to encourage the unvaccinated to get the jab. Several readers told us they supported the move for these reasons. 

Another reader, from St Legier, said a mandatory requirement would encourage the unvaccinated to take responsibility for their decision. 

“Those who choose not to be vaccinated ought to have to bear some of the burden that they are placing on society.”

Anthony, from Lausanne, echoed the views of many when he said he was tired of Covid restrictions and wanted things to get back to normal. 

“By requiring the certificate of vaccine or negative test result, with testing not being free anymore, should lead to more vaccinations. Everyone is tired of COVID restrictions but the only way out of this to get the vaccine. Hopefully this will help drive more vaccinations.”

Anthony was referring to the upcoming policy change, whereby testing will no longer be free from October. 

UPDATED: Unvaccinated must pay for Covid tests in Switzerland from October

Why do people oppose requiring Covid certificates in these areas?

Those who disagreed also provided similar reasons to each other, including concerns about safety or discrimination, while some were worried that it may lead to a “slippery slope” where the Swiss government would frequently carry out radical medical controls over the population. 

Several readers said they were worried about discrimination, with those who have not been vaccinated being discriminated against. 

One reader, from Lausanne, said they were concerned that the vaccines had not been tested enough. 

“The general direction in which this is heading is authoritarianism. I do not agree with this. One may argue that this is for the general well-being of public health, but I believe that the vaccines have yet proven their efficacy to the point of being mandated (or coerced via means of restricted access to public services).”

Some responses said they wanted more clarity about the plan and how it would be rolled out. 

AT, from Andermatt, said it would create too much work for bars, gyms and restaurants. As it stands, the government has not indicated how controls would be carried out, but in some cases establishments may be required to check people’s Covid credentials. 

Will said that while he thinks a Covid certificate could work, he feels it would be unfair unless tourists were also given the right to be vaccinated. 

“I’ve seen it work well. However tourists should also be given the option. As of today that isn’t possible in Geneva for the vaccinated.”

As it stands, only foreigners who have Swiss health insurance or who work in the health sector can be vaccinated in Switzerland.

Anyone with Swiss citizenship or residency is entitled to be vaccinated in Switzerland. 

Reader question: Can cross-border workers get vaccinated in Switzerland?

While many of the concerns about the pass were legitimate, a large proportion were based on debunked science including myths about the virus and its potency or a belief that natural antibodies are better than those from vaccination. 

One particular misapprehension was that people who had been vaccinated could catch and pass on the virus as easily as those who haven’t, which has been consistently disproven. 

Another was that those vaccinated catch the virus more than those who have not, which is not supported by evidence. 

READ MORE: What is the risk of catching Covid and getting sick in Switzerland if you are vaccinated?

What about those who were unsure?

While the survey attracted many responses, not everyone who responded had a set opinion on the matter. 

In total, eight respondents said they were unsure, which was just under four percent of those who filled out the survey. 

Alex, from Zurich, said businesses should have the final say on whether they would ask for the Covid certificate, with those who did provided perks over those who didn’t. 

“I totally support vaccination, but I think it would be better to let the businesses have the final say. Possibly, with some perks for those that require a certificate.”

Hilary, from Effretikion, said she wanted more information about the risks in different environments. 

“I feel like I’m lacking hard and fast facts on the risks of catching coronavirus in a restaurant as opposed to in public transport – I.e what is riskier, eating in a restaurant for 2 hours or travelling on a crowded train for 2.5 hours…?”

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Switzerland to start dual-strain Covid boosters in October

The long-awaited second booster shots will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th, the Health Ministry announced on Friday.

Switzerland to start dual-strain Covid boosters in October

Less than two weeks after drug regulator Swissmedic approved the new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said on Friday the shots will be available to some groups of the population from October 10th.

“The vaccination recommendation for autumn 2022 aims primarily to protect vulnerable people against a severe form of the disease. On the one hand, people aged 65 or over, and on the other hand, those aged 16 to 64 with an increased risk, for example due to a pre-existing disease or pregnancy”; FOPH said in a statement on Friday.

After that, those “aged 16 to 64, without risk factors and who work in acute and long-term care, or who care for vulnerable people in a professional or private capacity” will be eligible for the shots, FOPH said.Health officials noted that while the number of Covid infection is currently “relatively low, an increase in transmissions of the virus is expected from the fall of 2022. The risk of contracting Covid-19 and the burden for the health system could therefore increase again”.

It added, however, that “the situation differs markedly from that of the last two winters; currently, 97 percent of the population have antibodies against Covid following vaccination or recovery. “People without risk factors are unlikely to develop severe symptoms this fall”.

Dual-strain vaccine

In recent trials, the new Moderna vaccine demonstrated “higher antibody concentrations against the Omicron variants” than the manufacturer’s original Covid vaccine, Swissmedic said.

The previous vaccine was effective against early strains, like Alpha and Delta, offering no immunity against Omicron or its sub-variants, which are currently responsible for all the coronavirus infections detected in Switzerland.

“Compared to the original vaccine, trials have shown that this [vaccine] produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, Swissmedic said, adding that the new vaccine remains as effective as its predecessor against the original Covid viruses.

Additionally, “a careful review of the application documents submitted on an ongoing basis showed that the vaccine meets the safety, efficacy and quality requirements », the agency noted.

Also, in terms of secondary effects, they are expected to be “similar” to those following administration of the second dose and the first the booster of the original vaccine: fever, muscle pains, and headaches.

According to FOPH, “the bivalent mRNA vaccines, which are tailored to the Omicron BA.1 variant, should be preferred for booster vaccination. However, it is still possible to use the current monovalent mRNA vaccine”.

Additionally, protein-based Nuvaxovid doses will also be available.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters