Government plans tightening anti-Covid restrictions

The authorities consider limiting access to bars and restaurants In an effort to contain the rapid rise in Covid-19 infections Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott

Interior Minister Alain Berset says further measures would be introduced as early as next week, if steps taken at the weekend to slow the spread of the coronavirus proved insufficient.

This content was published on October 21, 2020 - 16:58

He did not specify but hinted at limitations for restaurants, bars and clubs, as well as private and public gatherings. The measures could be announced as early as in a week’s time.

Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Berset whose portfolio includes health issues,  described the rapid increase of infections and hospitalisations as alarming.

“Two, three weeks ago, Switzerland had one of the best situations in Europe,” he said, referring to the number of cases. “Today we have one of the worst.”

He said it was important to prevent both a shortage of hospital beds available and another shutdown of public life with damaging consequences for the economy.

On Wednesday, the number of new daily Covid-19 infections reached nearly 5,600 and is expected to rise further.

“The next few weeks will be decisive,” Berset said.

He urged private individuals to take the current situation very seriously, avoid holding private parties and respect hygiene rules. He also appealed to employers to allow their staff to return to telework.

Berset said the government was considering several options, including a short lockdown or curfews, if the situation does not improve.

“We can only exclude two options: Shutting down public life over the next 18 months, and doing nothing at all,” he said.

Meeting cantonal health directors

On Thursday, Berset is due to meet health directors of the country’s 26 cantons, which are largely autonomous under the Swiss political system.

He repeated that the Swiss government had no intention of taking over the lead as it did between March and June, under the terms of the country’s epidemics act.

Many cantons had proved that they are capable of taking the necessary measures to contain the spread of the virus – banning sports events in front of crowds, and closing or limiting opening hours of restaurants, nightclubs and bars, according to Berset.

He pointed out that the situation in different regions of the country differ considerably at the moment.

Last Sunday, the government made mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public spaces. It also imposed rules for private gatherings of more than 15 people.

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