Swiss urged to stay home during Easter break

Beauty spots like these in canton Graubünden are a huge draw for holidaymakers. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss citizens have been advised to resist the temptation to take a break over the Easter weekend despite warming temperatures and people having been cooped up under the same roof for the past few weeks.

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“Refrain from travelling for a short while more. Do not travel to the mountains or to popular destinations in Switzerland. Go without that motorcycle tour or excursion. The more strictly we adhere to these measures, the sooner we can pursue normal activities again,” Stefan Blättler, head of a cantonal policing committee, said at a media conference on Tuesday.

Last month the government ordered non-essential shops and services, including bars, restaurants and cafés, to close down until at least April 19. These measures were swiftly followed by a ban on more than five people gathering in a public place.

Schools have been closed and many companies have sent employees home on shortened working hours. Swiss health ministry official Daniel Koch praised the discipline of the Swiss people in sticking to the guidelines so far, but on Tuesday warned that “we are only half way there, maximum”.

Blättler recognised the urge for many people to head to the mountains over the coming holiday weekend, where some of them have second homes.

Traditional hotspots include the southern canton of Ticino, which borders Italy, or Graubünden in eastern Switzerland, home to the country’s largest national park. The Flüela mountain pass, giving access to the Engadin national park region, has been closed.

Cantonal police in Ticino have combined with counterparts in neighbouring Uri to set up checkpoints near the border of the two cantons. They will hand out leaflets with the slogan: “If you love canton Ticino, stay at home.”

Roads will not be closed, but control checks will also be carried out at the north side of the Gotthard tunnel, a major transport artery leading to Ticino.

Travellers will be given advice but will be allowed to decide for themselves whether to carry on their journey or return home.

“If too many people go to the same place at the same time and can no longer keep a safe distance from one another, the police will have to intervene,” Blättler warned. He added that policing would not be heavy-handed but would take a commonsense approach to each situation.

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