Coronavirus: Federal Council decides to maintain protective measures and calls on the public to get vaccinated
Bern, 11.08.2021 - At its meeting on 11 August, the Federal Council decided to maintain the measures that are still in place. However, this is designed to safeguard hospital capacity rather than protect the unvaccinated. A return to normality requires a massive increase in the number of people getting vaccinated. The current testing strategy, which is considered a key element of the response to the pandemic, is to be continued. From 1 October, tests for people without symptoms will no longer be free of charge. The Federal Council is launching a consultation on these proposals and will announce its decision on 25 August.
Almost half of the population in Switzerland is now fully vaccinated. However, the pace of first vaccinations has stagnated since 11 July even though the cantons now have sufficient vaccine supplies. The Federal Council considers that all those who wish to be vaccinated have had the opportunity to do so. In line with its three-phase model (protection, stabilisation, normalisation), it has decided to proceed to the normalisation phase, which was scheduled to begin once all those who wished to be vaccinated had done so.
Given the uncertain evolution of the epidemiological situation (rising case numbers, holiday returns, Delta variant) and the fact that a saturation of hospital facilities cannot be ruled out, the Federal Council has decided to retain the limited, generally accepted measures still in place (e.g. masks indoors and on public transport, COVID certificates for large-scale events and nightclubs). It will reassess the situation and possibly adjust the measures at its meeting on 1 September, when the impact of the return from the summer holidays will be more apparent.
The priority for the Federal Council is now to safeguard hospital capacity rather than protect the unvaccinated. It will only introduce new measures if the country faces a risk to hospital capacity. In this phase of fighting the pandemic[fro1] , unlike the preceding two phases, a package of strict measures is no longer deemed appropriate as this would unduly restrict the social and economic activities of those who have been vaccinated or have recovered. This also means that any new measures would most likely have a slower and less marked effect in relieving hospital capacity. The Federal Council reminds the cantons of their obligation under the Epidemics Act to take action in the event of a regional increase in infections or any overburdening of their hospital facilities.
Call to assume personal responsibility
For the Federal Council this new phase is about reinforcing personal responsibility. Given that everyone living in Switzerland will at some point come into contact with COVID-19, the Federal Council believes that an increase in infections, hospitalisations and deaths is inevitable. Vaccination remains the most effective way for the population to protect themselves against COVID-19 infection and serious complications. The Federal Council therefore encourages anyone who has not yet been vaccinated to do so without delay. The cantons must therefore ensure that the population continues to have easy access to the vaccine. The Confederation will launch a new information campaign on 16 August.
Testing strategy to be adapted
Testing remains a critical measure to keep the pandemic under control, interrupt transmission chains and prevent an overload of hospital capacity. It allows for early detection of infections so that measures can be taken in a local, targeted manner rather than imposing more widescale restrictions.
The federal government's current testing strategy is based on routine testing in schools and companies as well as preventative testing. Since spring 2021, the cost of all such tests has been covered by the Confederation. Regular testing in schools, companies and healthcare facilities will continue to be financed by the Confederation. The Federal Council calls on the cantons to organise regular testing in schools as a means of protecting younger children. It also calls on the cantons to make regular testing of unvaccinated staff in care homes and nursing homes mandatory in order to protect those who are particularly vulnerable.
However, the federal government is proposing to cease covering the cost of tests for people without symptoms (convenience tests) and of the five self-tests per month for people who have not been vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19, with the exception of children up to the age of 12 and people who are unable to be vaccinated. People who are not vaccinated or who have not recovered from COVID-19 wishing to attend an event where a COVID certificate is required will from 1 October have to pay for the test themselves or get vaccinated in the meantime.
The Federal Council is also proposing that people without symptoms will now be able to participate individually in pooled saliva-based PCR tests at their own cost, for example in pharmacies, and in that way obtain a more reliable diagnosis, yet less expensive test. If the test is negative, the person will be issued with a COVID certificate. The Federal Council will consult the cantons and parliamentary committees on these proposed changes and announce its decision on 25 August.
Extension of higher vaccination fee for medical practices
The increase in the standard fee payable to medical practices for each vaccination, which was temporarily set at CHF 24.50 until 30 June, has been extended until 30 September 2021. At its meeting, the Federal Council approved the adjustment of the agreement negotiated by the tariff partners for payment of the COVID-19 vaccination.
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