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Covid reveals gap between politics and science

Thurnherr and Berset in informal talks during the government s traditional summer outing 2021
Informal talks and sceptical looks: Thurnherr (left) and Interior Minister Alain Berset during the government's traditional summer outing. Keystone/Laurent Gillieron

The Swiss government’s cabinet secretary has called for better cooperation between politicians and scientists to handle crises.

Walter Thurnherr who holds the title of federal chancellor said the Covid-19 pandemic had shown the need for more mutual recognition.

“The two sides are very different and contacts between politicians and scientists are scarce,” he told several newspapers of the Tamedia group.

He noted that some politicians weren’t even aware of the existence of the researchers and that some of the scientists lacked a “sense of modesty”.

Thurnherr said an exchange of facts and opinions should be institutionalised to avoid a repeat of certain mistakes made during the Covid crisis.

He notably criticised that the government was too late in setting up its advisory science task force.

Thurnherr has been mandated to evaluate the government’s Covid policy.


Search for compromise

He rejected allegations that the Swiss political system – with its federalist structure and direct democracy as its main pillars -was not fit to handle crises.

He said the search for compromise and broad involvement of interest groups and citizens created a solid basis over the past 170 years of Swiss history.

Thurnherr noted a growing polarisation in society, fueled also through social media. He said direct democracy with referendums and people’s initiatives were an opportunity for critics of the government and parliament to voice their concern and put issues on the political agenda.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR