Swiss minister: ‘I don’t know if we can save Christmas’

Will coronavirus put a dampener on Christmas? Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset thinks it's a possibility Keystone

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has refused to say when he thinks the Covid-19 crisis will end and has again called on everyone to do their part. He has also rejected criticism that he has favoured the economy over health.

This content was published on November 1, 2020 - 11:09

“I don’t know if we can save Christmas,” Berset told Le Matin DimancheExternal link. “We have to live with this uncertainty.”

He said he wasn’t going to predict an end to the crisis, because “everyone who has done so has been wrong”.

Asked why Switzerland had not resorted to a lockdown, he said that without the support of the population the measures were useless. “So we’re trying not to ban everything, but to appeal to people’s sense of responsibility.”

Everybody knows how to prevent the spread of germs, he said, “but these measures will only work if everyone plays along”.

A survey on WednesdayExternal link found that while Swiss citizens support tougher anti-coronavirus measures, their trust in the government has weakened over recent months.

Critics who accused him of giving in to the economy and neglecting health were wrong, he said. “If there’s one thing this crisis has taught us, it’s that health and the economy can’t be set against each other.”

When deciding on further measures, Berset said the burden on hospitals remained an essential factor. “We cannot afford to have the health system break,” he insisted.

He also repeated his conviction that being able to manage the crisis in a regionally differentiated way was a “real advantage”.

Ski masks

In separate Covid-related news on Sunday, before the start of the new ski season Swiss cable car companies have tightened the rules on wearing masks, according to the SonntagsZeitungExternal link.

With immediate effect masks must be worn on all installations, including chair lifts and drag lifts. Previously this had been the case only for enclosed cable cars. Winter sports enthusiasts must also wear a face mask not only in closed waiting rooms but also when queuing outside.

The SonntagsZeitung also reportedExternal link that mobility in Switzerland had fallen significantly since the middle of the week due to the tightened measures to contain the pandemic. Data from the company Intervista showed that whereas in mid-October the Swiss were still travelling around 20 kilometres a day, the average daily distance last Friday was 13.9 kilometres.

The slowdown had become much more pronounced since the cantons announced that major events would be cancelled and the government on Wednesday restricted public events to 50 people and closed clubs and discos.

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