EXPLAINED: Is it really the right time for Switzerland to be lifting restrictions?
Switzerland's Federal Council announced this week that it would be easing, at the end of April, some of the restrictions it enforced on March 16th. But with the number of Covid-19 infections and deaths still rising, is the government acting prematurely?
What is the government proposing?
Authorities extended the deadline for lifting of the restrictions from April 16th to the 26th.
However, they didn’t specify which of the measures in place since March 16th — closing of all schools, most border crossings, shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment and leisure facilities, as well as the ban on gatherings of more than five people — it will loosen.
Health Minister Alain Berset only said that the de-confinement will be slow and gradual.
What is the current number of coronavirus cases and the rate of infection?
According to Worldmeter, there are now over 24,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Switzerland, and 948 deaths. The real number is likely higher and it might increase in the coming days.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet over, why did the government decide to loosen the restrictive measures at the end of April?
The authorities acknowledged that Covid-19 “will be with us for a long time” — until either a vaccine or medication can be produced.
So the goal has been to bring the outbreak under control enough to allow some loosening of the strict measures. Right now this objective has been reached.
According to epidemiologist Christian Althaus from Bern University, the number of infections is now much lower than it was in the middle of March, when the state of emergency was declared in Switzerland.
Social distancing measures in Switzerland seem to have been effective and reduced the reproduction number of #COVID19 to 0.59 (95% CI: 0.36-0.89). Question now is by how much can the interventions be relaxed on 26 April? @ISPMBern @unibern https://t.co/fAermeev1u pic.twitter.com/7da4n6h5PZ— Christian Althaus (@C_Althaus) April 9, 2020
Also, “the number of new cases from those already infected has decreased significantly. Until the lockdown, a sick person infected almost three others. Today, on average, it is less than one person”, Althaus said.
What this means is that the total number of infected people is actually increasing, but it is increasing at a slower and more manageable rate than before.
What is the next step in the fight against the spread of coronavirus?
Althaus said the goal right now is to reduce this contagion rate even further so the hospitals don’t’ become overcrowded. Also, all newly infected people should be identified quickly, along with those they were in contact with. This way they can be quarantined and not spread the virus to others.