‘Brave but risky’: Swiss papers react to Covid-19 easing plan

The decision to allow venues such as cinemas to re-open under certain conditions has been taken even though four of five criteria the government had set as the basis for re-openings had not been met – a move that the tabloid Blick called “inconsistent”. Keystone / Ennio Leanza

The Swiss media have reacted with surprise, relief and concern following yesterday’s government decision to further relax Covid restrictions despite the country falling short on pre-determined benchmarks.

This content was published on April 15, 2021 - 11:12

The step taken by the Federal Council (executive body) to re-open restaurant terraces and cinemas was “above all political”, according to the Tribune de Genève. This sentiment was echoed by the daily Tages-Anzeiger, which called yesterday’s announcement “symbolic politics”.

For La Liberté, the surprise decision was in keeping with the “Swiss order of things” of taking the middle road. Health Minister Alain Berset was trying to slalom between widely divergent opinions, it added.

The government had come under increasing pressure particularly from business groups and right-wing parties after it postponed a decision on relaxing restrictions back in mid-March.

Yet, with the number of new coronavirus cases still rising, the country is “still far from normality”, the Tages-Anzeiger pointed out.

The virus situation continues to deteriorate, the government admitted on Wednesday. It went ahead with a relaxation of the rules even though four out of five indicators introduced to guide its decision had not been met, such as a reproduction rate (R-rate) of 1.14 (benchmark limit was set at 1).

The tabloid Blick called the government’s move “inconsistent”.

“What sense does it make to communicate such benchmarks to the outside world?” Swiss public television SRF asked in an online commentary.

Assuming personal responsibility

Still, Blick called the plan “courageous” but warned it should not lead to carelessness. Allowing cultural and sporting events to resume – under certain conditions – was a show of confidence in the population, the Aargauer Zeitung said, adding that now everyone had to assume their responsibility.

The Tribune de Genève also pointed out the need for patience and vigilance. It said new Covid variants posed a real danger. But the paper welcomed the opportunity for some relief after the hardships of lockdown.

For the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, while the re-openings were a sign that Switzerland was on the road back to normality, a piece of the puzzle was still missing: namely, a clear picture of progress on the  vaccination roll-out in the coming months. To date, just 8% of the population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

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