Government minister admits lack of clear communication on easing coronavirus measures

The justice minister, who has appeared alongside other ministers and public health officials at press briefings on the coronavirus, admitted the government's communication was "not optimal". Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

Karin Keller-Sutter acknowledged the public’s confusion about loosening regulations to fight the pandemic in Switzerland, but defended the government’s back-pedalling on certain decisions.  

This content was published on May 2, 2020 - 12:25

The Swiss government did not clearly communicate the timetable for the gradual easing of measures or its protection strategy, the justice minister said in an interview published on Saturday in the CH Media group of newspapers. 

Keller-Sutter referred specifically to the government’s original announcement that large supermarket chains that had remained open throughout the crisis would be able to sell non-essential items again on April 27, two weeks before other shops were allowed to re-open. The government had to backtrack on this decision following an outcry from retailers. 

“This was well-intentioned, but was poorly communicated, and in the end only led to confusion,” she said. 

Keller-Sutter rejected the idea that by easing the lockdown the government was more concerned about shoring up the economy than safeguarding public health. But she accepted criticism of the government’s actions. 

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“During confinement, everyone can be treated the same,” she said. Now, however, “various factors have to be taken into account in the stages of easing confinement.” This means there must be different treatment in different areas, she added. 

A three-stage relaxation of confinement measures began on April 27 with the re-opening of certain businesses like hair salons and garden centres. Schools, restaurants and all other retailers will follow on May 11

Patience on re-opening borders 

Speaking to Tamedia newspapers a day earlier, the minister, who is responsible for immigration matters, warned there is still no timetable for the re-opening of the country’s borders, which will be done on a case-by-case basis. 

Neighbouring Austria could be one of the first countries to which travel may be possible, Keller-Sutter said, since its relaxation measures are similar to Switzerland’s, an important pre-requisite for allowing cross-border movement. 

She added she was in close contact with her counterparts in European Union countries and that so far, there was "no concrete indication that they are ready to welcome Swiss tourists this summer." 

For trips further afield, she said that, according to experts, "intercontinental tourist travel will probably not be possible in the usual way until next year." 

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