Proposed COVID restrictions split Swiss cantons
Before major COVID restrictions are set to be announced on Friday, some Swiss cantons have already leaked their thoughts on what is being proposed. Major differences in opinion exist between cantons over mask mandates, 2G rules, home working and shutdowns.
Swiss cantons divided over government COVID plan
Last Friday, the Federal Council submitted proposals for tightening COVID restrictions across the country. Unlike previous announcements, where the government gave cantons a selection of new restrictions to choose from, the council has instead decided to present two different versions of tightened restrictions, called “variants one and two,” and has asked all 26 cantons to choose which one they prefer.
Both variants include different rules regarding 2G, home working, restrictions on private gatherings, masks in education and partial shutdowns. In preparation for restrictions being announced, some cantons have already voiced what kind of restrictions they would prefer.
Cantons split over 2G rules in Switzerland
Under 2G rules, COVID certificates are only allowed for those who have recovered from or are vaccinated against COVID-19, putting tighter restrictions on unvaccinated people. Under 2G plus rules, on the other hand, COVID certificates would only be given to vaccinated and recovered people if they also complete a COVID test. The government hopes that cantons will decide to implement 2G at the least.
On the question of 2G, each canton has produced its own version of what it wants from the rules. This ranges from full 2G with possible 2G plus rules in nightclubs - as proposed by Canton Basel Stadt - to a rejection of the concept altogether. This was alluded to by Canton Fribourg, which said the current proposals are "neither economically viable nor understandable for the vaccinated."
Other cantons have proposed variants to 2G rules, such as mask exemptions, seating requirements and 2G exemptions for events. It remains to be seen how the government will be able to accommodate all the different interpretations of what a “2G” rule is.
Home working is among the measures being debated
Cantons are also divided on whether the instruction to “work from home” should be expanded. Under current restrictions, working from home is only a suggestion, but as part of the new laws, the Federal Council wants to make it a rule, as it was during the first lockdown.
Some Cantons, like Aargau and Solothurn, fully accept the idea of working from home. Others, like Vaud and Obwalden, want the rule to apply to unvaccinated people only. There are even cantons like Nidwalden that think the current rules are sufficient and will not support an official order to work from home.
Private gathering restrictions will be a challenge to enforce
On restricting private gatherings, the Federal Council hopes to place a cap on the number of unvaccinated people that can meet in private. This has also divided cantons, with some like Canton Schwyz insisting that the government cannot implement these rules, as “they are neither controllable nor enforceable.”
Other cantons like Glarus accept the idea but have asked for amendments to be made on the number of people allowed at private gatherings. Cantons in central Switzerland have rejected the rules on principle, mainly because they don’t believe they can enforce them.
Cantons agree that schools must remain open
While all cantons agree that the school system has to remain open, they remain divided on what measures to take. In regard to masking, some cantons advocate for full mask mandates for primary schools, whereas others reject the idea of a mask mandate entirely.
When it comes to universities, Aargau and Lucerne have both called for a return to distance learning, which has already started at some higher education institutions in Switzerland. Others, like Glarus, are in favour of keeping classroom teaching because of upcoming exams.
Swiss cantons reject the idea of closures
Finally, all cantons that have made their thoughts public have rejected the idea of partial closures of businesses. However, some have admitted that if the epidemiological situation gets worse, some additional steps may need to be taken.
Solothurn has said that closures may have to be considered if the healthcare system continues to be overloaded. Lucerne has also stated that the aim of all other restrictions should be to prevent closures from happening.
Decision on COVID measures expected on Friday
It has become clear that, although the Federal Council has attempted to submit two plans to the cantons, each has produced its own interpretations and requests. It will now be the job of the government to create a coherent plan for restrictions in Switzerland by the time of the official announcement on Friday.
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