The number of positive cases reported in Switzerland in the last two weeks jumped to over 3,000 a day, almost tripling its highest number of infections registered during the peak of the pandemic in April.
“The second wave has come earlier and stronger than we thought,” Health Minister Alain Berset said on Sunday.
The new regulations “aim to better protect the public and to prevent the health system from becoming overwhelmed in the coming weeks and months”, the Federal Council said.
It added that “the intention is also to considerably curb the number of new cases so that the cantons can continue to trace contacts effectively. Despite the restrictions, it is hoped that the economy can continue to function and people can live their lives with as little disruption as possible”.
Among the new measures enforced from October 19th are mask mandates in all indoor public spaces, capping public gatherings at 15 people, and private events at 100.
“We hope that these measures are sufficient. We tried to be very proportionate”, Berset said.
The question many in Switzerland are asking is why, in view of soaring infections along with predictions of further contaminations, authorities did not mandate more restrictive measures, as is the case in neighbouring countries like Italy and France.
According to Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga, “further regulations would have massive economic and social impact”, a situation which officials have tried to avoid at all costs.
However, if the number of contaminations gets out of hand, authorities will “consider more drastic measures”, she added.
Also, each canton can implement its own stricter rules, above and beyond those mandated by the federal government, Sommaruga pointed out.
For instance, canton Bern announced that from Monday it would ban events involving more than 1,000 people, even though such gatherings are authorised, under stringent conditions, in the rest of the country.
A number of legislators have expressed their support for the government’s decisions. Among them is MP Manuela Weichelt-Picard.
“With these pragmatic measures, which are based on personal responsibility and solidarity, the Federal Council is choosing the right path,” she said.
But others said the new regulations are not sufficient.
Jerôme Pugin, the head of the intensive care unit at Geneva’s University Hospitals (HUG), noted that the government has not gone “far enough in restrictive measures which would make it possible to cut a wave of this magnitude”.
His suggestion: “a brief but strict confinement”.
What else do experts say about the current situation in Switzerland?
The outbreak will likely worsen before it gets better.
“Right now, the cases are doubling every seven to ten days,” scientist Thomas Häusler told SRF public television.
“This means that even if we could stop the spread completely right now, cases would still rise from 4,000 to 6,000 per day for around a week. This will also lead to the increase the number of hospitalisations.