Interior Minister Alain Berset says Switzerland is unlikely to ease its anti-Covid restrictions before the end of February amid fears of new strains of the virus.This content was published on February 3, 2021 - 17:03
He also said it was not realistic to expect that the measures, in place since mid-January, would all be lifted.
“The government is facing a dilemma,” he told a news conference on Wednesday. He explained that the number of confirmed cases was dropping slowly, but new variants of coronavirus posed a real risk of a third wave of infections in Switzerland.
Berset also pointed out that the key reproduction value of the virus had risen above 1, fuelling concerns that the number of infections could be on the increase.
“The situation is similar to early October last year,” he said. “But there is uncertainty about development in the next few weeks.”
He called for people to maintain strict hygiene rules and respect the restrictions imposed by the government, notably a ban of gatherings of more than five people from more than two households.
The government has decided to pay for the costs of anti-Covid vaccinations for certain cross-border workers, Swiss-based diplomats and staff at international organisations.
The aim is to make vaccinations accessible for all those residents who have not taken out regular health insurance, according to the Federal Office for Public Health.
Around 150,000 people are to benefit from the decision. It is expected to cost CHF3.5 million ($3.9 million).
Meanwhile the government has signed additional deals with pharmaceutical companies to acquire an extra 12 million doses of anti-Covid vaccines amid supply delays.
Five million doses have been secured by the German pharmaceutical company CureVac through the Swedish government and an additional six million from the US company Moderna.
A preliminary agreement has also been reached with the company Novavax in the US.
In total, the Swiss government has signed agreements with five vaccine manufacturers for nearly 33 million doses, but the delivery of the vaccines has been delayed.
“We want to be prepared to cope with possible new variants of Covid and continue our diversification strategy,” said Nora Kronig from the health office.
The medical watchdog agency, Swissmedic, on Wednesday announced that it had asked for additional information from the Swedish/British company AstraZeneca about the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine before considering giving its approval.
The government ordered 5.3 million doses from AstraZeneca.