Coronavirus has frayed Swiss nerves: interior minister

Berset says life is not so much fun as it used to be. Keystone / Anthony Anex

Swiss Interior Minister Alain Berset says the mood of the nation has become more irritable with the realisation that coronavirus is not going away anytime soon. His ministry has come under fire for getting its numbers wrong about the pandemic.  

This content was published on August 9, 2020 - 11:15

Berset told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that the spirit of national togetherness, observed at the start of the crisis, is starting to unravel. “At the beginning, many people thought that the situation would soon get back to normal,” he said. “It is dragging on with no end in immediate sight. A fatigue has set in.”

“Then came some false numbers - a regrettable mistake - and criticism rains down.”

The false numbers were contained in a recent health office claim that two-thirds of Covid-19 cases could be traced to bars, clubs and restaurants. It later admitted that the virus was mainly transmitted through families and that hospitality venues were responsible for far fewer cases.   

Berset said tempers are being worn thin by the continued threat of Covid-19 that has forced the authorities to keep restrictions on public life in place. “Life has changed and become more uncertain,” he said. “There is less close contact and that is less fun. We will all be happy when it is over.”

Berset could not say when the pandemic will be over, but said the goal was to avoid a similar situation to March when it threatened to spiral out of control. He denied that cantons and the federal council (central government) were at odds about how to proceed.

But he added that there should be a better system for coordinating data from the 26 cantonal health authorities.

One long-term measure is to vaccinate the population against Covid-19. This week, the government ordered 4.5 million doses of a vaccine from the US biotech firm Moderna. Berset said this would cover two million of the most vulnerable members of the population and added that other orders are pending.

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