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‘Shop early’: Swiss officials issue Xmas Covid advice

An unusual Christmas: people wearing masks enjoy the Zurich Christmas light display Keystone / Alexandra Wey

People should plan their Christmas shopping and get-togethers carefully so as not to undo the progress made in stemming the Covid-19 pandemic, Swiss health officials have said.

This content was published on November 27, 2020 - 18:46
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The Covid-19 situation in Switzerland has improved over the last week but hospitalisations and deaths remain high, officials said at a press conference in Bern. On Friday, the country reported just over 4,300 new cases in the previous 24 hours.

Best would be to avoid peak times for Christmas shopping and shop early, rather than last-minute, advised Virginie Masserey, head of infections control and vaccination programmes at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

Walks not dinners

The Christmas holidays will need to be organised differently from usual, she continued. This could be a walk outside rather than a family event at home. The authorities have published further tips here.External link

The advice urges people to discuss their plans for the holidays with family and friends. "There is nothing wrong with calling off the celebrations if you do not have a good feeling about them," it says.

If you do have celebrations, talk about how you will greet each other ('avoid hugs and kisses"), seat people at several tables, ventilate and keep to social distancing during the meal. "You may, for instance, use multiple fondue sets. It is also important that not all guests touch the same items," the health authorities say.

Singing and playing woodwind instruments are discouraged. "Try to enjoy recorded music instead this year," the advice adds.

Masserey warned that the second wave of infections was bigger and would last longer than the first wave in spring. Corona hotspots had moved into the German-speaking part of the country, she said. The French-speaking part has been hardest hit with rates among the highest in Europe, but is now seeing a steep drop in infections following tighter restrictions.

Around 500 people are in intensive care with Covid-19, she said. There is a reserve of 220 beds countrywide.

Fragile

The situation is still fragile, she added. A further reduction of cases, which are still high internationally, is urgently needed.

Thomas Steffen, of the association of cantonal doctors, said that people were keeping to hygiene and protection concepts at work, but this was not the case at home “where it’s cosy”. More discipline could cut the number of quarantine cases, Steffen stressed.

The Swiss “slowdown” approach – the country has not opted for another national lockdown after the one in spring but rather a mix of national and cantonal measures – can only work if a majority of the population is on board. “Otherwise this won’t work in the long-term,” Steffen said.

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