The Swiss government on Friday announced a tightening of mask-wearing regulations, as the country detected two more omicron COVID-19 cases at a school in Geneva.
"The Federal Council recommends the COVID certificate for private meetings of more than 10 people," said Health Minister Alain Berset at a press conference after a meeting of the Swiss Federal Government.
He said two confirmed cases of the omicron variant were announced on Thursday on the Founex campus of the International School of Geneva, just outside the city, and some 2,000 students and staff were quarantined.
Before the Geneva cases, the Swiss media had reported five other people with the omicron variant had been found in Switzerland.
Maria van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, said in a live question and answer session on social media that extensive global research on omicron is underway worldwide.
"We have reports of Omicron coming from 38 countries in all six of the WHO's regions; increasing trends of omicron in South Africa," she said.
Delta still dominant
"But delta is still dominant worldwide," she said
Switzerland also said it was ceasing its 10-day quarantine rule for people flying in from countries where the omicron variant was found.
In Switzerland, travelers from 23 countries had to test negative on boarding a plane and entering Switzerland, and then quarantine for 10 days.
Everyone entering Switzerland must present a negative PCR test, except those crossing the border from neighboring Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Liechtenstein.
Around 340,000 workers cross the border each day into Switzerland, mainly from Germany and France.
Fatality numbers from the coronavirus in Switzerland between Nov. 22 and 28 reached 101, up from 64 the week prior, according to the Health Ministry.
"The acceleration in the number of infections also continued, and the number of hospitalizations increased," Berset said as his department announced 9,951 cases on Thursday.
The two biggest Swiss cities' hospitals in Zurich and Geneva reported that their intensive care units were stretched.
The Zurich Health Department had said Wednesday that ICU beds were at capacity.
In addition to local outbreaks, mainly in schools, in old people's and nursing homes, the virus in Switzerland is also spreading again among the general population.
As of Monday, COVID certificates will be required, and face masks will have to be worn in a broader range of situations; people will be urged to work from home, and the validity of rapid antigen tests will be reduced.
Just over 65% of Switzerland's population is fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said.
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