Government postpones Covid decision by two weeks

Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle

The Swiss government has put on ice any further loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, preferring to wait until after the summer holidays to make a decision on next steps.

This content was published on July 29, 2021 - 11:18

The government was due on Thursday to send to cantons its proposed steps for the next batch of measures to be updated as part of its three-step plan for exiting the pandemic.

On Wednesday evening, however, Health Minister Alain Berset said such a step would not yet be taken. The situation in Switzerland was generally good, Berset said, but the “negative dynamic” of rising daily case numbers, as well as the “uncertainty” of returning holiday-makers in the coming weeks, meant that it wasn’t time for any large-scale changes. The decision would be put off until a government meeting on August 11, Berset said.

However, the Federal Office of Public Health did publish new recommendations for cantons on Wednesday, mainly centred on encouraging the slowing vaccination campaign, as well as beefing up testing capacities and the verification of Covid certificates.

The health office also “strongly” recommends that unvaccinated workers in the health services – care homes and hospitals, for example – should be subject to obligatory and repeat testing, in order to ensure the safety of vulnerable patients.

In contrast to France, where vaccination is compulsory for healthcare workers, Switzerland has taken a liberal approach to vaccination based on incentives rather than coercion. But as the number of fully vaccinated people in the population begins to lag behind European averages, debates have been ongoing about whether a more forceful approach is needed.

‘Right’ decision

The health office guidelines also recommend that visitors to hospitals or care homes only be allowed in if they can produce a valid Covid certificate showing they are either vaccinated, tested or recovered from the coronavirus.

On Thursday Lukas Engelberger, president of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors, told Swiss public radio, SRF, that he thought the government’s decision not to loosen measures was correct, given the current situation.

Engelberger was more circumspect about the recommendation to systematically test non-vaccinated healthcare workers. Rather than pile pressure on particular people, it would be better to keep encouraging – through information campaigns – non-vaccinated people to get the jab, he said.

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