Businesses push for immediate lifting of Covid restrictions

Some fitness centres moved their equipment outside to avoid restrictions (Archive picture from last year) © Keystone/Gaetan Bally

The Swiss government is facing renewed calls for the immediate suspension of its anti-Covid measures, notably the work-from-home and quarantine rules.

This content was published on January 25, 2022 minutes

However, health experts and scientists have dismissed the proposals as counter-productive and premature. 

An alliance of business groups and right-of-centre political parties said the restrictions were “disproportionate” and not suitable for improving the situation for businesses and society.

“Many sectors of the business community and the population are suffering enormously,” said Hans-Ulrich Bigler, director of the influential Association of Small and Medium-Sized EnterprisesExternal link, at a news conference on Tuesday.

Several other speakers, notably from the event and hospitality sectors, said the Covid health certificate must be scrapped, according to the Keystone-SDA news agency. The document is needed to enter indoor public places such as restaurants, cinemas and gyms.

'Shooting ourselves in the foot'

In response, Urs Karrer of the Covid-19 science task force said lifting the curbs could cause additional damage. "It would be tantamount to shooting ourselves in the foot," he told a news conference.

Jan-Egbert Sturm, economist and senior member of the task force, said surveys found that about 40% of Swiss companies were affected by the absence of personnel due to sickness leave and that removing restrictions would not help improve the situation.

Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office of Public Health added that the latest wave of infections was still to peak in Switzerland.

"It would be too risky to suspend the curbs now." He said Switzerland was among those countries in Europe with the highest infection rate, but contrary to expectations hospital admissions hadn't been increasing. 

"We can't yet explain this," Mathys said. He added it was still possible that the number of cases would rise exponentially in the next few days. 

Measures extended

The latest restrictions were introduced in December and have been extended at least until the end of February. The government said the high number of new infections with the Omicron variant of Covid was putting the country’s hospitals under continued pressure.

The seven-day average of infections has been soaring over the past few weeks and is at around 33,500 cases; nearly 2,000 people with Covid are in hospital, according to latest official figures.

Under current regulations, people infected with Covid as well as those living with them have to remain in quarantine or isolation for at least five days. The measures have led to staff shortages across all sectors.

The government said it would review the situation next week.

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