“It’s a few minutes before midnight” said Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga as she spoke with the media after Switzerland’s coronavirus crisis meeting.
The meeting was held on Thursday between federal and cantonal representatives with the stated goal of avoiding a second lockdown.
The meeting came as the Federal Office of Public Health recorded 2,614 positive cases for Switzerland over the past 24 hours, just slightly below yesterday’s record levels.
Switzerland on Wednesday recorded its highest ever total of new infections, double the highest that was recorded during the peak of the pandemic in March before there was widespread testing.
No further federal measures
While the federal government encouraged cantons to act in order to bring the virus under control, no further measures were implemented at a national level during the meeting.
That could change on Friday, October 15th, when the cantonal health directors meet.
The Federal Council implored the Swiss public to adhere to hygiene and distancing rules.
“We are standing behind the measures we already know. There is no surprise bag of new measures today,” Health Minister Alain Berset said.
The government also stopped short of declaring a state of emergency once again, although such a declaration remained on the table should the situation worsen.
Sommaruga said that the entire country needed to work together to avoid a second lockdown.
“We have a lot to gain, but only if we all do it together,” Sommaruga told media.
“The faster we react, the fewer restrictions there will be on the population, the economy, families and groups at risk.”
Cantons remain in control of most measures
Despite discussions before the meeting that certain powers – such as implementing masks and requiring lockdowns – may be removed from the cantons and become federalised, the federal government said no such action would be taken at this time.
However, this may change if the situation continues to worsen – particularly rules regarding masks in indoor areas.
Lukas Engelberger, President of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors (GDK), spoke out in favour of a uniform mask requirement throughout Switzerland.
“The situation is serious. The number of cases is accelerating at a worrying pace,” Engelberger said.
“A Swiss-wide mask regulation makes sense to me.”
Currently, 14 Swiss cantons have gone beyond the federal minimum by installing compulsory mask rules in indoor areas.
Event ban would not be reinstated
Berset said the ban on large events – which was withdrawn on October 1st – would not at this stage be reinstated.
“At the moment we have no indications that major events are a problem,” Berset said.
Quarantine measures in the crosshairs
As reported by The Local on Wednesday, Berset is considering a change to Switzerland’s coronavirus quarantine rules – specifically a shortening of the period from ten to seven days.
Berset said after the meeting that no decision was made to shorten the period, but reaffirmed that the “Federal Council wants to deal with it soon”.
Berset said the current situation was not tenable, particularly that many ‘high risk’ countries – from which arrivals must quarantine – have lower case numbers than Switzerland.
Will there be more tests?
The federal government denied that there was currently a bottleneck in testing, reassuring the Swiss public that many more tests could be made daily.
Switzerland’s test positivity rate has been between 12 and 13 percent in recent days, four times more than three weeks ago.
“We are still a long way from the upper limit for our test volume,” says Berset. “We can go much higher.”
Berset said that rapid coronavirus tests, including those produced by Swiss Pharma company Roche, would be available soon.