Hopes of easing Covid-19 rules were raised too soon, says press

Health Minister Alain Berset faced the press alone on Friday to announce an unpopular decision. Should Swiss President Guy Parmelin have come too? Keystone / Anthony Anex

Government caution on easing Covid-19 restrictions is coherent with the current situation, Swiss newspapers said on Saturday. But they also point to errors in government communication.

This content was published on March 20, 2021 - 12:01

This comes after the federal government said on Friday it was postponing plans to reopen restaurant terraces, sports and leisure facilities from March 22 as it had previously suggested. It pointed to a rising number of coronavirus cases and insufficient progress in the vaccination campaign.

"The U-turn announced yesterday is coherent,” wrote regional French-language daily La Liberté, “as is the sweetener on private gatherings to keep public support”.

The only easing measure agreed by the government on Friday was to raise the limits on household gatherings to 10 people from five.

German-language daily Tages-Anzeiger agreed that however painful it may be, the government was right to go carefully. The paper adds that it is important to proceed with caution until the vaccination campaign offers better protection.

In view of the number of cases, the government's approach seems understandable, the NZZ also writes. It concludes that for the time being there is no alternative than to put up with the government’s stop-and-go management of the pandemic. What is missing, the newspaper believes, is a perspective that goes beyond hopes for more vaccine deliveries and a drop in case numbers over the summer.

Government ‘spoke too soon’

“The government spoke too soon, and people rejoiced too soon,” writes Le Temps. It also asks why the federal government announced on March 12 that it would consult cantons on easing restrictions and then appears to have ignored their views.

In recent weeks the government has been under heavy pressure from cantons, businesses and other interest groups to ease coronavirus measures, particularly for restaurants. But it has faced a dilemma with the slow rise in the number of new infections since February 20, as in neighbouring countries, and the presence of more contagious variants.

Le Temps also notes that Health Minister Alain Berset faced the press alone on Friday to announce the unpopular decision. Guy Parmelin, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, was “conspicuous by his absence," says the paper, calling this a mistake.

Blick newspaper points out that while it’s understandable the Swiss population are disappointed and frustrated, they currently enjoy more freedom than in other European countries.

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