Covid-19: calls for more action, new measures mooted

After canton Bern tightened measures: people in masks at outdoor market in Bern on Saturday Keystone / Anthony Anex

A leading epidemiologist says “every day counts” as Switzerland faces record rates of Covid-19 infections. Meanwhile the Blick newspaper has published an outline of the new national pandemic measures said to be under consideration.

This content was published on October 24, 2020 - 12:56
Blick/Schweiz am Wochenende/Keystone-SDA/SRF/ilj

The number of new Covid-19 cases has risen sharply in recent days. A total of 6,634 new cases – a record – were reported on Friday.

Epidemiologist Marcel Tanner warned in several media interviewsExternal link on Saturday that the virus could spread further in Switzerland. Every day counted, he said. “We’ll only see if the measures [already taken] have worked after two weeks,” Tanner told BlickExternal link. He called for everyone to follow distancing and hygiene rules. But more needed to be done, like stopping large events, the Covid-19 scientific taskforce member said. The aim would be to avoid a lockdown, he added.

On Friday Martin Ackermann, the chief of the scientific taskforce, said that hospitals across the Alpine country could be swamped with new coronavirus cases in the next two or three weeks unless the situation improved. Ackermann added that current measures “were not at all sufficient”.

Cantons: extra measures

Some cantons, which are currently in charge of Covid restrictions, imposed additional drastic regional measures on Friday to combat the virus, most of which will come in over the weekend. The government is expected to announce tougher national measures on Wednesday.

The government has not stepped in to take over the management of the pandemic, as it did in spring. But it has already made some measures compulsory across the country like the wearing of masks in public buildings.

Critics say the situation has led to a patchwork of anti-Covid measures across the country, but the government argues cantons know their local situation best.

More masks, limits

According to BlickExternal link, the seven-page government document outlining new national measures - which has also been seen by news agency Keystone-SDA - proposes extending obligatory mask wearing to outside in residential areas, limiting events to 50 people, closing restaurants from 10pm to 6am and moving universities back to distance learning.

There has not been as yet any official confirmation as to the content. However, Simonetta Sommaruga, the government minister who holds the Swiss presidency this year, did confirm on sidelines of an official visit to a the University Hospital Bern on Saturday that the government would "very soon decide" on further measures.

The government will take into account cantons’ feedback when it announces its further measures on Wednesday, Keystone-SDA says. The minister in charge of health, Alain Berset, said on Thursday after a meeting with cantonal health directors that cantons had right to have a say in national measures and that they would evaluate what was needed over the weekend.

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