Swiss divided over government response to coronavirus

A third of the working population in Switzerland apparently works from home in line with government recommendations to curb the Covid-19 pulmonary disease, according to an SBC survey. Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott

Two out of five people in Switzerland are in favour of tighter restrictions by the government to stem the spread of the coronavirus, according to a nationwide survey. 

This content was published on March 24, 2020 - 17:26
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch

Younger respondents and residents in the French-speaking part of the country are especially keen for the government to clamp down harder, an online poll has found. 

As shown in the chart, 54% of respondents agree with the government’s current policy, while 42% want the authorities to limit personal freedom more strictly.

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The poll was carried out by the sotomo research institute over the past weekend and published on Tuesday – ten days after the government began  imposing sweeping measures to shut down public life. The measures have included the closure of schools, restaurants and shops selling non-essential goods as well as a ban on public and private gatherings of more than five people, but no blanket curfew. 

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Perhaps not surprisingly, nearly 70% of respondents in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino – which borders Italy, a hotbed of the viral infection in Europe – said the government acted too late to curb the spread of the Covid-19 disease. 

This figure is slightly lower (64%) in the French-language region, while a majority in the German-speaking region (56%) found the government acted just in time. 

Impact on everyday life 

The survey also found that the government restrictions have had an impact on everyday life in Switzerland, although not all the urgent appeals were particularly well heeded. 

“An overwhelming majority of respondents did not stay at home last week, but most of them said they had been in close contact with fewer than five people,” says Michael Hermann, director of Sotomo.

Among the 65+ age group, which was particularly targeted by the government’s precautionary health measures, only about 25% adhered fully to the restrictions.

See chart below for activities cited by respondents from all age groups to go outdoors.

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“The crisis appears to have had a particularly negative impact on the younger generations,” says Hermann. He also said that only a very small minority of the 30,000 respondents are confident that life in Switzerland will go back to normal before the summer. 

At the moment, an absolute majority assumes the coronavirus disease will affect their personal health mildly. Only a small percentage are afraid of as a result of Covid-19. See chart for further details.

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People aged between 15 and 44 are more pessimistic than the older generation about whether Swiss hospitals will be able to cope with an  expected increase in patient numbers,  or whether they will face a situation like that seen in northern Italy. 

Respondents in the French- and Italian-language regions are more pessimistic on this front than their fellow citizens in the main German-speaking region, the pollsters found.

Trust in government 

The wide-ranging attitudinal survey on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation also polled people’s trust in the government. 

As shown in the chart below, more than 60% of respondents give the authorities a good score card.

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But the divide between the language regions is striking, the Sotomo report points out. 

Again, respondents in German-speaking Switzerland trust the government more than their fellow citizens in the other language regions.

Polling details

The online survey is based on answers of 30,460 respondents over the age of 15 across the country.  

It was carried out between March 21 and March 23. 

The margin of error is +/-1.1%. 

The poll is the first in a series of surveys carried out by the sotomo research institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation - swissinfo.ch’s parent company. 

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