Decision day: Is the Swiss government ready to lift restrictions?

Decision day: Is the Swiss government ready to lift restrictions?
Will restairsnt terraces re-open in Switzerland? Stay tuned. Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP
The Federal Council will announce on Wednesday afternoon whether some of the measures implemented in Switzerland in January will be eased or remain in place.

Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon announced it had lifted a range of coronavirus measures. Here’s what you need to know. 

The current restrictions, taken to curtail the spread of coronavirus and its new mutations, have been in effect since January 18th.

They include the closing of all restaurants, bars and coffee shops — perhaps the most contentious rule that the government had enforced.

Political and business groups have been calling on the authorities to step up the process of re-opening, arguing that the prolonged shutdown is not only bad for the economy, but also takes its toll on people’s mental health.

Will the government give in to the pressure or will it stand its ground?

Even the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is unaware of the government’s decision.

“The Federal Council has not whispered anything into our ears,” said Virginie Masserey, the head of FOPH’s infection control section, when asked about the imminent announcement  by a journalist.

Authorities have previously said that to end the shutdown, a number of criteria has to be met: the infection positivity rate over 14 days should fall below 5 percent, occupancy of the intensive care units (ICU) by coronavirus patients should be below 25 percent, and the R-rate  — which indicates Covid’s ability to spread —must be below 1. 

Right now, only one of these benchmarks is being met: the occupation of intensive care beds is just under 23 percent.  

However, Swiss media is reporting that even though the epidemiological situation in the country is far from ideal, the Federal Council is ready to make a small, conciliatory gesture by allowing the re-opening of restaurant terraces and the limited return of spectators to cultural and sport events.

It is not known when this would happen, but probably not before April 26th, the media reported, basing this information on “well-informed sources”.

Postponing the re-opening until the end of the month would give health authorities more time to vaccinate more people, sources said.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How Switzerland is speeding up its vaccination programme

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