Swiss Covid-19 second wave response plan excludes national lockdown


Some experts warn that a second pandemic could be deadlier than the first. Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

The Swiss government is against imposing nationwide lockdown restrictions if a second wave of Covid-19 strikes the Alpine nation, according to the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper. The weekend press also took stock of how Switzerland has handled the pandemic overall.

This content was published on June 14, 2020 - 14:21
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Switzerland’s executive body, the Federal Council, is developing a response plan for a second wave scenario that puts emphasis on a regional approach, with cantons leading the way, reports NZZ am Sonntag, a German-language weekly based in Zurich.

Cantonal authorities, according to the crisis management concept, would be able to independently order measures such as imposing quarantines to tackle any future upticks in coronavirus infections. This means if an outbreak develops in a region, shops, restaurants, hotels or even entire villages could be confined.

The security directors of cantons Bern, Valais and Graubünden confirmed this change of course in remarks to the newspaper.

Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset wrote an opinion piece on Saturday in which he argued that Switzerland, notorious for its non-centralised division of power and attachment to consensus building, had managed the crisis as effectively as nations with more centralised systems of governance.

At the end of February, "we wondered if our institutions would be robust enough to withstand the shock of this pandemic, if our system known for its slowness would be able to face an exponentially growing phenomenon. Today, we have the answer: Switzerland has proven itself ", he wrote.

Berset’s assessment was published on Saturday in the French-language Le Temps newspaper and the German-language newspapers of the Tamedia group.

The Sunday editions of LeTemps and the SonntagsZeitung, however, carried reports claiming that federal authorities initially underestimated the coronavirus crisis on the basis of the minutes of crisis meetings obtained thanks to the Transparency Act.

"The virus does not spread as easily as the flu virus, so there is a good chance that the situation is under control," Daniel Koch, head of communicable diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is quoted as saying in a meeting on February 24.

That same day, one of his subordinates argued on the contrary that the new coronavirus represented "a particular threat to public health" and recommended that the government declare the "special situation". That warning was ignored.

The newspapers also report that, according to the documents, the FOPH had long believed that there was enough material such as personal protective equipment in the country to face the pandemic. They also note that the strategy on wearing of masks – which eventually became a recommendation in settings where social distancing is not possible but not a requirement – also faced internal criticism.

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