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Swiss order COVID-19 booster doses, mull more restrictions

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By Reuters
Swiss gov't examines introducing COVID-19 certificates in most indoor spaces
Swiss gov't examines introducing COVID-19 certificates in most indoor spaces   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

By Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and John Revill

ZURICH -Switzerland on Wednesday ordered millions more doses of COVID-19 vaccine as it braced for a resurgent wave of coronavirus that could require more restrictions on public life.

The order of 14 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot means Switzerland will be able to offer booster shots to the public “if necessary”, the government said, as it warned that a rising number of serious cases could soon overwhelm hospitals.

It is considering ordering staff and visitors to show a certificate against COVID-19 infection in most public indoor spaces.

Just over half the Swiss population has been fully vaccinated, Health Minister Alain Berset said, but a third of adults remained unjabbed. He pointed to lower vaccination rates than in neighbouring countries.

“There are still very many people who could be infected,” he told a news conference in Bern, adding 90% of COVID-related hospital and intensive care unit admissions related to individuals who had not received the vaccine.

The number of new infections in Switzerland and neighbour Liechtenstein rose by 3,212 on Wednesday, taking the total above 765,000 since the pandemic began. The death toll is nearing 10,500.

The Swiss COVID-19 certificate provides proof of vaccination, recovery from infection or a negative test result.

The requirement would cover events as well as indoor areas of restaurants and bars. Recreational sites like cinemas and museums, sports centres and cultural activities could be affected, the government said as it launched consultations with regional authorities which will run until Aug. 30.

“There are no short cuts in a pandemic,” Berset said, saying the certificates were an important tool to avoid resorting to broader lockdowns as hospitals get swamped.

“The pressure would be massive, the situation would be absolutely chaotic,” he said.

The agreement with Pfizer for delivery of 7 million doses in both 2022 and 2023, with an option to double that, remains subject to a modified Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine being authorised for use by drugs regulator Swissmedic, the government said.