Some Swiss cantons call for earlier restaurant re-openings

A restaurant that has been shut in Geneva Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Several cantons have called for restaurants to be re-opened a month earlier than the official nationwide plan presented by the government earlier this week.

This content was published on February 19, 2021 - 10:25

Canton Graubünden wants restaurants to open their terraces from March 1. The canton has done a lot to fight the pandemic with its mass testing pilot programme, its officials argue.

“In the end the government will have to give some decision-making power back to the cantons,” said Marco Cavigelli, the president of Graubünden’s government, in a report on Swiss public television SRFExternal link.

The Swiss government plans to re-open shops, museums and sports facilities in Switzerland from March 1 as part of its exit strategy from Covid-19 restrictions. Restaurants are to be allowed to open their outdoor terraces from April 1 if key indicators for infections, hospital admissions and the virus reproduction number remain within certain parameters.

The plans – which would be applicable nationwide without exception – are being submitted to the country’s 26 cantons before the government takes a final decision next week.

For and against

Canton Vaud meanwhile wants to re-open restaurants as a whole from mid-March; St Gallen wants terraces open from March 1.

But Interior Minister Alain Berset has said he is against cantons going it alone. He said that the experience of last autumn showed that “big differences in measures between the cantons leads to a distortion of competition” and to “corona tourism” in which people pop over the cantonal border to take advantage of more relaxed measures.

The head of the conference of cantonal health directors is also against earlier re-openings. “We don’t want to open businesses now just to close them again in a few weeks’ time due to the number of deaths rising again,” said Lukas Engelberger.

But on Friday the parliamentary House of Representative's health committee also recommend that restaurants and gyms reopen in a month's time.

The Swiss authorities have been under intense pressure from business groups to ease coronavirus restrictions, while health experts have warned not to repeat the mistakes of last year when measures were lifted too early

On Friday the country recorded 1,021 new coronavirus infections and 62 deaths, a downwards daily trend. But infections with the new variants of the virus are on the up: the total number of cases detected so far stands at 7,320External link (6,966 on Thursday).

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