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Covid: Swiss government plans further restrictions

These restaurant chairs will remain stacked up until March if the Swiss government has its way. Keystone/Urs Flüeler

Restaurants and leisure venues in Switzerland look set to remain closed until March in a bid to halt an expected rise in Covid-19 infections.

This content was published on January 6, 2021 - 16:44
swissinfo.ch/urs

Interior Minister Alain Berset said the pandemic situation in Switzerland was serious despite restrictions introduced last month.

“The infections have remained at more or less the same level since the beginning of December,” Berset told a news conference on Wednesday.

The government has prepared a series of proposals, notably extending the closure of restaurants, bars, culture venues and sports across the country until the end of February.

A final decision will be taken next week following consultations with the 26 cantons, employers’ organisations and trade unions.

Berset, whose portfolio includes health matters, said the government was aware of the difficult situation, especially faced by the restaurant sector, culture organisations and sports clubs. He said additional economic aid was being considered to cushion the impact of the restrictions.

However, he said the restrictions in Switzerland remained less strict than in many other European countries even if the rate of infections, deaths or hospitalisations is comparatively high.

Rejecting criticism

Confronted with criticism about the government’s vaccination policy, Berset reiterated that Switzerland had placed orders for more than 15 million jabs for a population of 8.5 million residents.

He said a supply of 500,000 doses of vaccine would arrive in Switzerland by the end of this month and an additional one million doses by March.

Berset also rejected criticism about “half-hearted measures” in the face of the epidemic and the threat of rapidly rising infections in the next few weeks due to the spread of more contagious new strains of coronavirus from Britain and South Africa.

“The government’s aim has always been to reduce suffering and harm for everybody in Switzerland,” he said.

The government had to take into account the interests of many sectors of society and the economy, he added.

Berset said the Swiss political system and its federalist structure, as well as the legal basis, made it necessary for the national government to include the cantons in its decisions.

“This is very demanding,” Berset said.

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