End of 'acute' phase of pandemic is near, says health minister

“Of course we must get rid of measures that are no longer of use today because the situation has changed," Berset told Swiss public radio SRF. © Keystone / Anthony Anex

The Swiss interior minister responsible for health, Alain Berset, has hinted that the worst may soon be over and some measures to fight Covid-19 could be scrapped in the coming days.

This content was published on January 29, 2022 - 17:19

Berset told Swiss public radio SRF that the record number of Covid cases seen in recent weeks had forced the government to introduce strict measures to get the situation under control. But hospitals, it turns out, have not been overrun, as was initially feared at the start of the fifth wave.

“That is decisive for the Federal Council [executive body],” Berset said in an interview that aired on Saturday. “Of course we must get rid of measures that are no longer of use today because the situation has changed.”

“I think the outlook today is better than it has been in a long time.”

Switzerland  has among the highest infection rates in Europe and registered close to 45,000 new cases on January 27.

The cabinet has already put lifting mandatory quarantine and telework into consultation, although Berset said the issue of isolation in particular should be carefully considered.

“It would be unfavourable for the economy if people who are likely contagious were allowed to go back to the office,” he said.

Business groups and centre-right parties have called for an immediate end to Covid-related restrictions, including the need to show a Covid certificate to enter indoor spaces such as restaurants and cinemas.

Medical professionals, however, say such a move would be premature. Earlier this week the head of crisis management at the federal public health office, Patrick Mathys, said it wasn't clear if the current wave had reached its peak.

Children have not been neglected

Responding to the observation that authorities in Switzerland had not done enough to protect children from the virus, Berset said that the highly contagious Omicron variant was almost unstoppable and had led to many children becoming infected despite the measures in place.

“But it can’t be said that we in Switzerland have not taken care of the children – quite the opposite,” said the minister, adding that the worst kind of suffering for young people happens when schools are shut. Primary schools were closed across the country during the first lockdown in 2020 but have remained open since then.

Berset acknowledged that mistakes had been made, particularly in the early days of the pandemic, when information on the virus was scarce and there weren’t enough health supplies, such as face masks. But he defended the government’s approach overall, saying: “In which other country would you have wanted to live during this pandemic?”

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