On Monday, May 11th, Switzerland will enter the second phase of its coronavirus lockdown.
Restaurants, bars, gyms, schools, museums and galleries will open again – subject to certain restrictions – while public transport will once more run on usual timetables.
'There is a price for rushing back'
While the news has been welcomed by many across the country – particularly on the back of evidence the country is beginning to flatten the infection curve – experts are warning that opening up too soon may lead to another wave of infections in Switzerland.
Heidi Hanselmann, President of Swiss Health Directors, said the winding back of the lockdown requirements was not a good idea and could lead to another spike in infections.
Hanselmann said a more cautious reopening would have been preferred in the longer term, as the economic consequences could be similarly severe next time around.
“The fact is that four of us can now sit around a table on May 11th. Two would have been a better middle ground”.
“The price for rushing would be an impact which was much heavier for the population”, she said.
“We shouldn’t give up what we’ve achieved over the past few weeks through these painful (lockdown) restrictions”.
Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP
Despite the destruction caused by the first wave of the virus, there is the potential it could return more severely next winter.
The last global pandemic, the Spanish Flu from 1918 to 1920, saw a second wave which was far more deadly than the first, killing an estimated five to ten times as many people.
Matthias Egger, who heads Switzerland’s Coronavirus Taskforce, said the medical community was concerned that people may have developed ‘lockdown fatigue’ and will perceive the next set of relaxations – to take place on Monday – as a return to normal.
We can continue to win the battle against the virus, Egger said “but everyone needs to participate. Otherwise a second wave is realistic.”
We might need to live with restrictions for ‘two years or more’
Egger told the NZZ that the restrictions in some form may need to last for two years.
While Egger said the rules would likely be less significant than they are currently, some form of social distancing and hygiene requirements as well as the use of masks may need to stay in place until a vaccine is not just discovered but is widely available.
“It is possible that we will need to continue living like this for two years or more” Egger said on Sunday.
“My hope is that vaccinations can be carried out on a large scale in the course of a year”.