Swiss government determined to avoid repeat of Covid lockdown

Berset (centre) was briefed by a member of the St Gallen cantonal government and a representative of the top-flight St Gallen football club about the health safety measures at the local stadium. Keystone / Peter Schneider

Interior Minister Alain Berset has defended Switzerland’s policy to contain the Covid-19 pandemic despite a steady rise in confirmed infections.

This content was published on October 12, 2020 - 16:44

Berset said on Monday that the overall aim of the strategy was to prevent a repeat of the three-month nationwide lockdown, which led to a near standstill of public life.

He repeated that the current strategy, which places the responsibility for new restrictions with the 26 cantonal authorities rather than the national government, was a proven method.

Under Switzerland’s federalist system cantons have wide-ranging autonomy, notably on tax, health and education issues.

Berset, whose portfolio includes health, also dismissed a change in the testing policy focusing on elderly people and other risk groups.

He called on the population to adhere to the hygiene rules and welcomed the protection measures put in place by sports clubs, which notably allow national football and ice hockey matches to be played in stadiums with a limited number of spectators.

New infections

Berset’s comments come as confirmed Covid-19 cases have continued to increase over the past weeks and as critics call for the government to take the lead again.

There are currently no nationwide regulations on the wearing of face masks – except in public transport – or on closing bars and nightclubs.

Meanwhile, several members on the government’s Covid-19 taskforce have expressed concern over the spike in Covid-19 infections.

Epidemiologist Marcel Tanner called for increased efforts by the population to respect hygiene rules, including social distancing, in the face of a growing number of patients with coronavirus admitted to hospital.

The head of the expert group, Martin Ackermann, recommended the authorities re-impose limits on the number of people allowed at public gatherings.

He told Swiss public radio, SRF, at the weekend that it was crucial to stabilise and reduce the number of new Covid-19 infections.

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