The press has largely welcomed special measures introduced by the Federal Council on Friday to contain the spread of coronavirus in Switzerland. Editorials urged the population to follow federal health recommendations and to show solidarity.
"The Confederation is not abandoning its population. It wants to protect them. With strong measures. The most spectacular, of course, is the closure of all schools. This is shocking, but now essential to stop the disease,” declared the Le Temps daily on March 14.
The previous day the government imposed sweeping measures, including closing schools across the country until at least April 4 (some cantons have longer closures until April 30), banning public gatherings of more than 100 people, limiting access to restaurants, bars and discos to a maximum of 50 people and pledging CHF10 billion to help the economy.
"Until now, the crisis regime has given the cantons too much freedom from the coronavirus, while in fact imposing too much responsibility on them. The new rules ensure greater unity and efficiency in the response to the pandemic,” said the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, adding that the government should perhaps have gone further in its response.
"In times of crisis, it's important to keep a cool head. And, if necessary, act with great determination," wrote the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ). "This is exactly what the Federal Council has done and continues to do. The federal government is proving that it can lead the country in an emergency and that it is prepared to take courageous, even difficult decisions when necessary.”
The Fribourg-based La Liberté echoed this: "The Confederation has realised the gravity of the situation. It's about time, some people say.”
However, it was not all praise. The 24-Heures newspaper noted that “despite the many preparatory meetings between Bern and the cantons, there is still a certain cacophony and an overcomplicated situation. Given the exceptional crisis, the slowness of federalism reveals certain limits and paradoxes".
La Liberté agreed that there were several visible cracks in national unity, with the cantons and the Confederation diverging on the duration of the restrictions and the size of authorised gatherings. It concluded that "in the face of a global pandemic, federalism is definitely an outdated remedy".
The Tribune de Genève said the main difficulty for the population was not necessarily the actual measures but that almost every day new decisions were being announced.
“As soon as one adapts to the current situation, it becomes obsolete," the paper said.
In its editorial the German-language Blick tabloid recalled that it was important for the public understand exactly why the government was introducing such extraordinary measures.
“It is a drastic act which ultimately means showing solidarity. Solidarity with people who could be threatened by the coronavirus," it said.
Tribune de Genève concurred: “By taking firm measures, the Confederation and the canton are trying to shorten the time of crisis. This is a good strategy, but only on one condition: that everyone plays their part. Otherwise, a much more serious economic and social disaster is on the horizon.”