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SHUTDOWN

‘A disaster’: Restaurants slam Switzerland’s coronavirus announcement

Is Switzerland's 'go slowly' approach correct?

'A disaster': Restaurants slam Switzerland's coronavirus announcement
Restaurants will remain closed for the time being. Photo by AFZ

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.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new 'relaxed' coronavirus measures? 

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”.

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.

READ MORE: Shutdown or relaxation: What will Switzerland announce today? 

 

Member comments

  1. Since the beginning of the year I have flown into Zürich from Dubai without any check whatsoever being conducted on incoming passengers. Unlike flying in the other direction, there was no prerequisite to have a valid PCR test certificate, either to board the aircraft, or to gain entry into Switzerland. The UAE is not exactly COVID free, in fact infections have been increasing in recent weeks and now average over 3’000 per day. All very lax on the part of the Swiss authorities.

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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