Media dub new Covid-19 measures a last wake-up call

Omnipresent: Swiss minister in charge of health affairs Alain Berset. Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

Newspapers react to the latest measures to stem the spread of Covid-19 in Switzerland, which is now one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

This content was published on October 29, 2020 - 11:59

The Tages-Anzeiger writes that the “drastic measures” announced on Wednesday by Interior Minister Alain Berset are rather less drastic compared to what’s happening in neighbouring countries, and even in some Swiss cantons.

Germany has announced plans to shut down all restaurants, bars and theatres in November, the newspaper writes, even though it has a lower infection rate than Switzerland. The southern Swiss canton of Valais has shut down most entertainment and sports facilities.

Compared with such steps (France also announced a nationwide lockdown yesterday), the Swiss government has chosen a “risky” strategy that the newspaper says was dictated by economic concerns and by the complexity of Switzerland’s federal structure.

Its editorial says a return to an “extraordinary” situation is needed, and that the government should take charge and guide the country through this “winter of crisis” with a well-thought out plan – with another lockdown as the “emergency” solution.

The public broadcaster SRF also notes this Swiss exceptionalism: “despite almost record high-levels of case numbers in Europe, our measures remain clearly more moderate compared to other countries”.

The commentary does not elaborate on why this is the case, however. It simply states that the measures amount to a “last chance” for the country to avoid following its neighbours into another lockdown. Both reporters say that individual responsibility is the way to achieve this.

Wake-up call

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung follows the same line, writing on Thursday that the new measures are “not so much precise instructions as more of a wake-up call”.

Criticising lax attitudes towards basic hygiene and social distancing rules over the past weeks – and alluding to recent reports of “super-spreader” weddings and crowded yodelling events – the paper says that the time of “tailored” measures is over.

“Personal responsibility”, “self-discipline”, and “self-restraint” are now needed, it writes. It’s no use continuing to wait blankly for orders from Bern; rather the motto is: “just do it!”

Whether this self-responsibility is possible was questioned in an article earlier this week published by French newspaper Le Monde. Its correspondent noted that the Swiss are not, as received wisdom would have it, “more civic-minded or disciplined than elsewhere” – an idea that the government seems to have relied on for too long.

In an attempt to explain how Switzerland has shifted from being one of the most successful European nations in handling Covid-19 in spring to becoming one of the “bad pupils”, the paper also raised the recurring theme of federalism.

“Up to now, because of federalism, it’s the cantons which took measures themselves – leading to widespread disorder,” the paper wrote. “Voices are now being heard that are demanding action that is less slow than usual”.

The action, taken on Wednesday, might however just be the “last reprieve before lockdown”, Le Temps writes. The Swiss newspaper worries that the measures – “less strict than in neighbouring countries” – might be hampered notably by the fact that Swiss people continue to move around a lot, compared with the big declines in travel seen in spring.

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