'Variant is a real danger': Swiss health minister explains why new restrictions needed

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'Variant is a real danger': Swiss health minister explains why new restrictions needed
Berset explained why the new measures are necessary. Photo by AFP

The new shutdown measures, aimed at curbing the further spread of coronavirus, will go into effect across Switzerland on January 18th.


The new rules, announced during a press conference on Wednesday, include mandatory working from home and closing shops other than those selling basic provisions.

The measures adopted in December are to be extended by five weeks: restaurants, cultural establishments, sports and leisure facilities will remain closed until the end of February.

And contacts in both public and private will be limited to five people.

These stricter measures were ordered even though the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths related to Covid-19 have been declining in Switzerland.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the details of Switzerland’s new coronavirus restrictions?


In an interview with SRF public broadcaster on Wednesday, Health Minister Alain Berset explained the reasons for new restrictions. 

Q: Why is the Federal Council implementing tougher measures, even though the epidemiological situation has improved?

A: Because we know what to expect. This is a huge advantage over the first and second waves. We can now see that the new coronavirus variant, which comes from the UK, is much more contagious. We currently have exactly the same situation in Switzerland as the UK had at the beginning of December. And this knowledge should allow us to have a third wave under control. 

So far, there have only been around 150 or 200 cases of the new variant in Switzerland but the number is doubling every week. The question is not whether we should take action. The only question is when. We’d rather do it now, with fewer major consequences, than later in a hurry with many more serious repercussions.

The situation changes every day. The Federal Council is there to protect the country and to minimise the damage to the economy, society and health.

We firmly believe that now is the right time to act.

Q: Until now the Federal Council has only acted when absolutely necessary. Is there now a change of strategy — to react before the need is obvious?

A: For the first time in this pandemic, we have advance information that allows us to act at the right moment. This new, more contagious variant is a real danger to us. The numbers are exploding and we cannot afford its consequences. It would also put the vaccination campaign at risk.

The Federal Council makes all the decisions together, as a team. We try to do this with our conscience and use our experience.

READ MORE: Everything we need to know about the coronavirus mutation in Switzerland



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