COVID relaxations: Swiss Health Minster clashes with cantons over new plan
The Swiss Health Minister, Alain Berset, has clashed with medical experts after announcing that quarantine and working from home rules may be scrapped as early as February 2. Cantonal health authorities were unaware of the announcement and have called for caution and consultation before lifting any restrictions.
Berset announces relaxation to COVID rules in Switzerland
On a trip to Canton Aargau on Friday, Berset announced that quarantine rules and the requirement for workers to work from home would be lifted from this week. His proposal was submitted to the Federal Council, who are expected to make a decision by Wednesday.
In what was described as a “turbo opening” by 20 minuten, the minister said that he was also submitting a reopening plan to Swiss cantons. This would include the lifting of almost all COVID-related restrictions, such as the COVID certificate and mask requirements. Although he refused to call it a "Freedom day," Berset hinted that February 16 might be a “happy day” for Switzerland.
Coronavirus reopening plan criticised by cantonal health experts
However, these new proposals have been criticised by health experts, who propose a more restrained approach. Lukas Engelberger, President of the Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health (GDK), did think a relaxation was possible, but said, "We shouldn't open everything too quickly and at once, but rather in doses and in stages."
He noted that any relaxation would put greater pressure on Swiss healthcare and that Berset did not consult the cantons before his first announcement on Friday. He warned, “The abolition of 2G and the obligation to obtain certificates in Switzerland will have far-reaching effects on the cantons. Such measures must not be decided without consultation.”
If the current rate of infections and hospitalisations increase, there would be new risks involved, like the threat of new variants, said Engelberger. He counselled against declaring the pandemic “over,” saying it was still too early to tell. The Federal Council is due to confirm relaxations this Wednesday.