Health minister raises prospect of easing Covid restrictions ‘in a few weeks’

Discussing results at a wrestling festival in northern Switzerland in June. The government says people may soon no longer have to wear masks 'if things go well'. Keystone / Alexander Wagner

If the Covid-19 pandemic develops favourably in Switzerland, Health Minister Alain Berset has mentioned the possibility of relaxing restrictions soon. However, the government’s main aim is to avoid another lockdown.

This content was published on August 8, 2021 - 11:13

“If things go well, further relaxations, such as the requirement to wear a mask, are possible in a few weeks,” Berset said in an interviewExternal link with the SonntagsZeitung and Le Matin Dimanche newspapers.

“But if the situation remains unclear, it would be stupid to lift the last mild restrictions recklessly. We’d then risk having to re-impose many harsher measures in autumn.”

Since the situation was still unclear, he said the transition to the normalisation phase was not foreseeable for the time being.

On Friday 1,162 new cases were reported to the Federal Office of Public Health. The seven-day average was 21% higher than the previous week.

“We have the more contagious Delta variant. And many people are returning from holidays, which increases the risk of infection in Switzerland,” he said. “Children will soon be back at school and could accelerate the spread. We’ll have to see how this affects the number of cases.”

No lockdown

Berset defended the “very few” restrictions still in place, such as the obligation to wear a mask on public transport or in shops and to show a Covid certificate at large events or in clubs.

What’s more, it was still too early to treat Covid-19 like the flu, he said. “This can only happen when the risk of hospitals being overburdened can be ruled out. And that’s unfortunately not the case at the moment.”

Should the situation worsen again, he said the government absolutely wanted to refrain from another lockdown. “One should never rule out anything in a crisis. But in Switzerland there should be no more closures. We’ll do everything we can to achieve this. I also believe we’re on the right track.”

He said he could imagine adapting the requirement to show a Covid certificate. For example, in places where a certificate is obligatory, personal data could also be collected for contact tracing, he suggested. “If there’s an outbreak at an event, we need [that data] to contact people. That’s not possible today.”

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