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Covid-19: What will summer 2022 look like in Switzerland?

While uncertainties about the evolution of the Omicron variant still remain, improvement on the epidemiological front is on the horizon, a Swiss health expert says.

Health experts predict a more carefree summer ahead. Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels
Health experts predict a more carefree summer ahead. Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva from Pexels

Even though the Omicron variant is still very active in Switzerland, health officials believe that Covid pandemic is winding down.

Marcel Tanner, an epidemiologist at University of Basel, said in an interview on Sunday that the situation should stabilise in the summer to the point where some measures “may be necessary only occasionally”.

“If people comply with the measures on their own in certain situations, state health restrictions could be lifted”, he added.

Generalised rules such face masks and the Covid certificate mandate will no longer be necessary in the summer “if we continue to get vaccinated and get booster doses”, according to Tanner.

“All epidemics have shown this so far”, he pointed out in support of his forecast.

Health Minister Alain Berset also said that the need for the Covid certificate “seems to be approaching its end”.

READ MORE: Should Switzerland abolish the Covid certificate?

And Virginie Masserey, head of the infection control section at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), noted as well that “we can be reasonably optimistic” that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

Such uplifting prospects may seem unrealistic at the moment, given that nearly 40,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in Switzerland on Friday, January 21st —most Covid infections ever recorded in a single day.

Add to it the undeclared and asymptomatic cases, and the actual number of daily contaminations could  be closer to 100,000, according to Jürg Utzinger, director of the Tropical and Public Health Institute.

So why are health experts fairly optimistic that the pandemic will mostly wane by summer?

They say that while Omicron — which currently accounts for nearly 88 percent of all infections in Switzerland — is still circulating in Switzerland, it is also less virulent than its predecessors Delta and Alpha, especially among the vaccinated population.

With more people contracting Omicron, the level of immunity is growing within the population, signalling the pandemic’s end.

The proof epidemiologists cite is that Switzerland’s healthcare system is holding up relatively well, with fewer Covid patients requiring hospitalisation in ICUs than several weeks ago.

This means that most people infected with Omicron don’t develop severe symptoms and don’t need to be hospitalised.

In fact, a survey conducted by Blick newspaper among hospitals found that virtually all patients admitted to Swiss healthcare facilities have contracted the Delta variant which, though less prevalent than Omicron, is still spreading in Switzerland among the unvaccinated and has more serious side effects.

At Geneva’s University Hospitals (HUG), only two out of 19 Covid patients have Omicron. And the chief physician of the University Hospital of Zurich said that “there are hardly any traces of Omicron in the intensive care unit”.

In Zurich’s two other hospitals, Tremli and Stadspital Waid, none of the seven Covid cases has Omicron.

As for Bern’s Inselspital, “a significant proportion of intensive care patients have been affected by the Delta variant”, spokesperson told Blick.

This provides additional evidence to support the health officials’ contention that Omicron is not as virulent as Delta.

As a matter of fact, many experts believe that while this variant will never completely disappear, it will become a part of the existing viruses, as common as a common cold.

READ MORE: ‘Reasonably optimistic’: Are Switzerland’s Covid hotspots cooling down at last?

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Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

More than two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel to Switzerland is set to return to normal from May 2nd.

Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

Despite winding back all Covid measures domestically on April 1st, Switzerland still required visitors from non-European countries to be vaccinated against Covid. 

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration said on Twitter late in late April that all remaining entry rules would be scrapped from Monday, May 2nd. 

What were the rules? 

Up until May 2nd, visitors from the EU/EFTA zone can enter Switzerland without needing to show a vaccination or a test. Those from outside the bloc however need to show either proof of vaccination or recovery, or fit into other exception categories, including being under 18. 

This created a somewhat contradictory situation where Switzerland has some of the most relaxed rules in Europe domestically, but a stricter entry framework than many of its neighbours. 

‘Travelcheck’: This tool shows you what you need to enter Switzerland

As a consequence, Swiss tourism authorities warned that travellers from outside Europe, particularly those from the United States, China, India and the United Kingdom, are taking their tourist dollars elsewhere. 

The Swiss Tourism Association STV submitted a formal request in March that the laws be changed, saying they had put Switzerland at a disadvantage. 

How do I know which rules apply?

One of the most important elements to consider with regard to Covid entry rules is that the country where you reside rather than your nationality is the most important aspect. 

Therefore, if you are an American living in France under the current rules, you can enter without showing proof of vaccination, as you are considered to be entering from France. 

With rules constantly changing and official sources sometimes slow to keep up, the best way to determine the rules which apply in your specific case is the Swiss government’s ‘Travelcheck’ website. 

This is available here. 

The site will ask you certain questions about your situation, although no personal details are required. 

You will then receive a tailored response with advice on your entry situation. 

An extensive set of FAQs is available on the Swiss government website here