The Federal Council announced on Wednesday a range of relaxed new coronavirus measures that will go into effect on March 1st.
They include the re-opening of non-essential shops, museums, libraries, zoos botanical gardens, and, under special conditions, sports facilities .
Also, the rule on meeting in groups outdoors would be relaxed from five to 15 people, but the limit of five people indoors will be maintained.
You can see the detailed description of new measures here.
However, restaurants and bars will remain closed until at least April 1st, at which point only outdoor seating will be permitted, if the epidemiological situation allows it, authorities said.
The decision to keep restaurants closed for the time being is “a disaster”, said GastroSuisse, the association of hotel and restaurant industry.
“Every week, the Federal Council finds new reasons to keep restaurants closed. Once it's the number of cases, another time it's the R-value, then the positivity rate, then the British variant, and then the South African virus. And what will tomorrow’s excuse be?” the organisation said.
“To date, there is no evidence that restaurants are a source of infection,” said Casimir Platzer, Gastrosuisse president of the umbrella organisation. “
“Paradoxically, when restaurants are closed, contacts simply take place in the private sphere without a protection plan”, he added.
The rightwing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is also critical of the government’s decision.
For the party, the “arbitrary and nefarious” policy followed by the government is “unacceptable”.
Dass die willkürliche und schädliche Corona-Politik weitergeführt werden soll, ist inakzeptabel. Mit uns fordern 300'000 Menschen, dass am 1. März alle mit Schutzkonzepten öffnen können. Die Kantone müssen dieser mutlosen Berset-Strategie eine Absage erteilen. #CoronaInfoCH
— SVP Schweiz (@SVPch) February 17, 2021
Others, however, said the new measures are reasonable.
“The full re-opening of the economy would be irresponsible and undo the progress made in recent weeks”, the Social Democratic Party noted.
“The Federal Council is on a reasonable path. We need a prudent, long-term, science-based exit strategy that gives people real perspectives and avoids any yo-yo effect,” said the party’s vice president Cédric Wermuth.
For the Liberal Greens too, a gradual easing is the right way forward.
Party president Jürg Grossen believes that if shutdown measures are lifted too fast, “a third wave and a new lockdown would be the worst-case scenario in terms of health and economy”.
Yet others point out that even the gradual and limited re-opening of the economy is not a good. idea.
“We know the name of every cow in Switzerland, but almost a year after the onset of the pandemic, we still don’t know where people contracted the disease”, said Balthasar Glättli, president of the Green Party.
“Actionable data and sufficient contact tracing capabilities are mandatory prerequisites for a sound strategy and therefore for further openness in early March,” he added.