Coronavirus: Federal Council proposes extending validity of measures and reducing isolation and quarantine period to 5 days

Bern, 12.01.2022 - The measures introduced on 17 December to contain the spread of the coronavirus should remain in place until the end of March. That is the proposal being put out for consultation by the Federal Council in view of the strained situation in hospitals. Furthermore, the validity of COVID certificates is to be shortened to 270 days. At its meeting on 12 January, the Federal Council also decided to shorten the isolation and quarantine period to five days with immediate effect.

The epidemiological situation is critical and remains difficult to assess: hospital admissions and occupancy of intensive care units have fallen in recent weeks despite a surge in the number of cases. People who have been vaccinated or have previously recovered from COVID-19 are far less likely to require hospital treatment after becoming infected with the Omicron variant than with the Delta variant. The proportion of people admitted to hospital who have to be treated in intensive care is also lower. New scientific findings also confirm that the third vaccine dose
significantly helps to prevent hospital admissions. Vaccination continues to offer the best protection against severe illness and long-term consequences.

Pressure on hospitals likely to rise
Although the Omicron variant is less dangerous for vaccinated and recovered persons, an increase in hospital admissions is to be expected because of the very high number of infections. The burden is likely to increase in the normal acute care area first, before possibly increasing in intensive care units as well. More and more hospital patients are testing positive even though they were not admitted due to COVID-19. As a result, they have to be isolated, which makes care in hospital more complex. In addition, a growing proportion of hospital staff are also  likely to be absent due to illness.

Consultation: Extending validity of current measures
The Federal Council's strategy continues to be to adopt measures to contain the spread of the virus to prevent hospitals from becoming overstretched. That is why it decided to introduce far-reaching restrictions on 17 December including the ‘2G' rule in certain indoor settings,
restrictions on private gatherings and the requirement to work from home. These measures are currently due to expire on 24 January. However, in view of the continuing tense situation in hospitals, the Federal Council proposes extending these until 31 March. The consultation on extending the validity of these measures will last until 17 January.

Should the situation in hospitals deteriorate significantly, the Federal Council can still act swiftly by imposing stricter measures such as the closure of facilities and institutions or by limiting capacity at large-scale events, regardless of the consultation.

Consultation: Shortening validity of COVID certificates
The Federal Council also plans to reduce the period of validity of all forms of vaccination certificate from 365 to 270 days and so ensure that the certificate remains valid in the EU. Certificates issued as proof of recovery from COVID-19 will also only be valid for 270 days. The cantons will also be consulted on the proposal to shorten the period of validity. This should come into effect from 1 February.

Further questions in the consultation
The Federal Council is also using the consultation to submit further questions to the cantons - for example, on the ban on face-to-face teaching at tertiary level, capacity restrictions for large-scale events, extending mandatory mask-wearing, capacity in the area of acute beds, compulsory pre-entry testing for vaccinated and recovered persons, adapting the testing strategy due to the heavy workload of the testing laboratories, dispensing with rapid antigen tests and on lifting quarantine rules.

Decision: Isolation and quarantine period to be shortened to 5 days
At its meeting today, the Federal Council decided to shorten the isolation period from ten to five days with effect from Thursday, 13 January. In order to come out of isolation, the person concerned must be symptom-free for 48 hours. Cantonal authorities may grant exemptions to ensure
security of supply.

Contact quarantine is also to be shortened to five days. Furthermore, quarantine is to be limited to persons who live in the same household as someone who has tested positive or who has had close contact in other ways. Persons who have had their last dose of vaccine or who have recovered from COVID-19 within the last four months are exempted. Cantonal authorities may also grant exemptions from contact quarantine to ensure security of supply.

The reason for shortening the isolation and quarantine period is due to the Omicron variant as the interval between infection and transmission of the virus is shorter. In addition, cantonal contact tracing capacity as well as the economy and society have come under increased pressure as the number of people affected by isolation and quarantine requirements has risen sharply in recent weeks.

Increase in staff absences
Despite the relief provided by shorter quarantine and isolation periods, an increase in staff absences is to be expected. In this context, the Federal Council stresses the importance of the requirement to work from home. This requirement significantly helps to prevent transmission in the workplace. According to the Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES) and the Federal Office for Civil Protection (FOCP), the infrastructure to ensure national economic supply as well as critical infrastructures are well prepared for higher rates of staff absence.

Discussion on expanding intensive care capacity
The Federal Council also discussed ways in which the federal government could support the cantons in their efforts to expand intensive care capacity. Under the COVID-19 Act, responsibility for creating sufficient capacity now rests with the cantons.


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Last modification 21.01.2022

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