Government faces growing pressure to relax Covid measures

Bars and restaurants in Switzerland have been closed since Christmas and there are growing calls to allow outdoor dining. Keystone/Martial Trezzini

Pressure is building on the Swiss government to ease restrictions imposed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This content was published on April 12, 2021 - 12:05

The Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises on Monday called for a review of the current situation, saying the government was focusing too much on health while failing to consider the economic and financial impact of the restrictions.

The influential pressure group said the interests of public health and the economy had to be balanced, and that the hygiene and safety measures in place would allow an end to the current shutdown and a return to a “healthy economic and social life.”

In the same vein, the Employers’ Organisation has urged the government to relax the restrictions faster once elderly and vulnerable people have been vaccinated.

Switzerland’s health sector could cope with up to 30,000 daily infections of younger and less vulnerable patients, according to the organisation’s president, Valentin Vogt. His statement made on public television SRF on Friday prompted immediate rejection by a senior official from the government’s scientific coronavirus taskforce.

Meanwhile, the health directors of the country’s 26 cantons have struck a more cautious note, calling for the government to allow a partial reopening of restaurants, closed since mid-December.

Lukas Engelberger, president of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors, said opening restaurant terraces and allowing smaller sports and culture events should be considered as they pose no health risk. But in an interview with public television RTS on Sunday he said it was unlikely that the Swiss government will soon lift all restrictions.

The main political parties are also adding their voices to the debate, with the right-wing People’s Party at the forefront when it comes to demanding an end to restrictions.

The government is due to decide on next steps on Wednesday. Observers point out that the overall epidemiological situation is still too uncertain for a further easing.

Steps towards relaxing Covid rules came into force at the beginning of March, but the government postponed further openings later that month.

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