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Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Monday

Find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Testing requirements for entry into Switzerland are now relaxed. Photo: SPENCER PLATT / AFP
Testing requirements for entry into Switzerland are now relaxed. Photo: SPENCER PLATT / AFP

No more entry tests: travel to Switzerland gets easier

Since Saturday, travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid and those who have recovered from the illness no longer need to show test results to enter Switzerland from abroad.

Only people who are neither vaccinated nor cured must still present a negative test on arrival. The PCR test must be done within the last 72 hours and the rapid antigen test within the last 24 hours.

However, the former requirement of a second test after four to seven days after arrival has been dropped  previously due to limited testing capabilities in Switzerland. The obligation to confirm a positive result by taking a repeat PCR test has also been eliminated.

READ MORE: Switzerland drops PCR tests for confirming positive rapid antigen tests

There are almost no Omicron patients in intensive care units

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.

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

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

Health officials: Covid certificate and other measures could end soon

In an interview with Swiss media on Sunday, Health Minister Alain Berset said that the need for the Covid certificate “seems to be approaching its end”.

While he didn’t specify when the requirement would be abolished, other health experts are also seeing a significant easing of current measures.

After the Omicron wave calms down, generalised measures such as certificates and masks will no longer be necessary from the summer “if we continue to get vaccinated and get booster shots as well”, according to epidemiologist Marcel Tanner.

While the virus will not be eradicated completely and there will always be coronavirus outbreaks, “it will be possible to stem them with specific and targeted measures. All epidemics have shown this so far”, he added.

READ MORE: Should Switzerland abolish the Covid certificate?

Study: most self-tests are not reliable

Covid home tests that are sold in pharmacies in Switzerland only work reliably with very high viral loads, a new study found.

According to this information, many tests available in Switzerland and authorised by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) don’t show accurate results when the viral load goes from “low” to “high”. Only a “very high” load could be detected.

Home testing kits like this one are rarely reliable, study found. Photo: Ben STANSALL / AFP

This means that tests conducted at the beginning of an infection, or in case of asymptomatic infection, would likely show a negative result.

This study adds evidence to another recent research which suggested that even antigen tests conducted by professionals sometimes fail to detect Omicron infections.

READ MORE: Switzerland: Do antigen tests detect Omicron?

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday

Another case of monkeypox found in Switzerland, Covid boosters could no longer be free, and other Swiss news in our daily roundup.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Wednesday

Second case of monkeypox found in Switzerland

The virus was detected in a person in Geneva, who was contaminated “during a trip abroad”, the canton’s Health Department has confirmed.

It added that the infected person “is currently in isolation, his general condition is good and does not currently require hospitalisation”.

Contact tracing is underway to find people who have been exposed to the sick person, the canton said.

This is the second known case of monkeypox in Switzerland, following the one detected in Bern on Saturday in a person who also contracted the virus while travelling abroad.

Globally, about 90 cases have been detected so far.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is monkeypox and what is Switzerland doing about it?

Health authorities: Travellers should pay for Covid boosters themselves

According to newest recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), people travelling abroad who need second booster doses must pay for the shots themselves.

As the fourth vaccine dose is currently recommended only for people with a severely weakened immune system, everyone outside of this group will be charged as yet undefined fee.

Until now, all the Covid vaccinations had been free of charge.

The proposal was sent to the cantons for consultation until June 1st. If agreed on, the Federal Council will adjust the Epidemics Ordinance accordingly on June 10th.

Additional trains in service over the  Ascension and Pentcoast weekends

Road traffic is typically very heavy during the two holiday weekends, falling this year on May 26th – 29th and  June  4th – 6th, respectively.

For travellers who prefer to take the train during this busy period, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), is “significantly expanding” its service towards Ticino, one of the most popular destinations for public holiday weekends.

“There will be numerous additional trains. We will also be increasing the number of seats available on regular trains”, including between Zurich/Basel and Ticino via the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the company announced.

Switzerland and NATO want ‘closer ties’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reassured Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd on Tuesday that the military alliance would maintain a strong partnership with Switzerland.

He said he is “open to closer ties”— a message that “was very important because I want a close collaboration” too, Amherd responded.

Even though some Swiss politicians are pushing for a greater degree of NATO integration due to uncertainties related to war in Ukraine, Switzerland cannot become a member because of its longstanding policy of neutrality.

Switzerland has nevertheless a relationship with the organisation through its Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, and also participates in military exercises with NATO related to cyberattacks.

“We are studying the question” of how Switzerland can further its collaboration with NATO without compromising its neutrality, Amherd said.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why isn’t Switzerland in NATO

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local, please get in touch with us at [email protected]