Swiss cantons divided on ending Covid measures
The Swiss government's consultation with the cantons has led to disagreement on how the country should progress, with some calling for extending the existing measures and others demanding full scale relaxation.
The cantons had until Wednesday, February 9th, to give their opinion on the two options proposed by the Federal Council to end current restrictions.
Most cantonal authorities said they prefer to do this in one fell swoop, rather than in stages.
Two paths forward out of the pandemic
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset presented two possible options to the cantons on Wednesday, which were then sent out for consultation until February 9th.
The first path would see the lifting of almost all Covid measures from February 17th, provided the country has passed the peak of the wave of new infections and vaccinations/boosters continue to progress.
If this happens, all protective measures would be lifted. Covid certificates would no longer be required for bars and restaurants, for events and for visiting cultural venues.
Masks would no longer be required in bars, restaurants, public transport, shops and in other publicly accessible areas.
There would be no further restrictions on private meetings, while events would no longer need to be authorised.
Some measures would remain in place, including the requirement to isolate if you test positive, along with safety and hygiene plans for all large events.
The second path is more cautious than the first, although it would still see the relaxation of several measures on February 17th.
Covid certificates would no longer be required for restaurants, although seating would still be compulsory. The 2G rule – i.e. requiring people to be vaccinated or recovered – would apply wherever the 2G+ rule applies (i.e. nightclubs, choirs, swimming pools and saunas and indoor sporting activities).
There would be no further restrictions on private meetings, while large outdoor events would no longer need to be authorised via a permit.
Mask rules would remain in place, along with the isolation rule for people who test positive and the 2G rule for certain venues. These would be lifted in future as soon as the situation allows it.
How do the cantons feel?
The small, centralised and predominantly German-speaking cantons of central Switzerland — Zug, Schwyz, Uri, Nidwalden, Obwalden and Glarus — are in the greatest hurry to return to pre-Covid rules.
These cantons argue that a gradual lifting would be too complicated and difficult for the population to understand.
The southwestern canton of Valais prefers this approach as well, but only “as long as the number of cases and hospitalisations continue to decrease by mid-February”. Otherwise, the lifting of the measures should be done in stages.
However, Geneva, Basel-City, Neuchâtel and Jura say it is too early to lift remaining measures.
“It is too risky at the moment, given the still high load in hospitals”, according to Basel-City, which added that “the effects of the first relaxations, such as teleworking and quarantines, are also not yet known”.
The decision will be announced in the coming days, with the new changes to be implemented on February 17th.