Switzerland tells cantons to lead the fight against ‘critical’ Covid surge

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference after a meeting of the Swiss government in Bern. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference after a meeting of the Swiss government in Bern. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss authorities said on Wednesday that additional measures should be the responsibility of the cantons, despite hitting a record mark of more than 8,500 new cases on Wednesday.

Despite describing the situation as “critical”, Swiss authorities said the cantons further measures should be imposed at a cantonal rather than a federal level. 

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said on Wednesday that although the cases hit a record mark, the situation in the hospitals was as yet “not out of control”. 

“The time has not yet come to change the measures,” Berset said. 

READ MORE: Switzerland on edge ahead of Covid referendum

Berset said the pandemic looked likely to develop differently from region to region, meaning that nationwide measures were not yet necessary. 

The government said the current case levels were mainly among younger people, although it warned that things could change rapidly. 

“The increased virus circulation in the younger age groups is likely to lead to an increased transmission of the virus to the risk groups and a – possibly very rapid – increase in hospitalisations.”

MAPS: Where are Switzerland’s coronavirus hotspots right now?

Berset said the Federal Council was “not indifferent” to the potential risk, but said it was “not surprising” case rates were rising as the country headed towards winter. 

“The situation is currently worrying and not easy, especially in the surrounding countries,” Berset said. 

Austria recently put in place a two-week nationwide lockdown, while Germany has implemented strict measures in several regions, particularly in the heavily hit south of the country. 

READ MORE: Why is German-speaking Europe lagging on Covid vaccines?

Berset hit back at claims the government was delaying the implementation of new measures due to Sunday’s Covid referendum. 

“We only make decisions based on what we see on the terrain,” Berset told the press. 

Some experts have claimed Switzerland is delaying the implementation of harsher measures until after Sunday’s vote so as to not risk a protest vote by larger members of the population. 

READ MORE: Is Switzerland delaying imposing new measures due to Covid referendum?

Sunday’s referendum is among the most anticipated in recent memory, with early trends indicating a record voter turnout. 

The government also ruled out making Covid testing free again, apparently in a bid to encourage people to get the jab. 


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