Switzerland has lifted Covid-19 restrictions too quickly, scientist says

Switzerland has lifted Covid-19 restrictions too quickly, scientist says
Experts warn that if distances and other protective measures are no longer respected, the infection rate will go up again. Photo by AFP
Starting today, the state of emergency declared in mid-March is ending and life in Switzerland is almost back to normal. But this may hasten a new outbreak of coronavirus infections, health experts warn.

The Federal Council announced on Friday the lifting of nearly all restrictions put in place on March 16th to combat the spread of Covid-19. 

Starting on June 22nd, groups of up to 1,000 people are allowed to gather together, provided that the tracing of contacts can be guaranteed. Masks will be mandatory during large events, but not on public transportation, where such protection is recommended but not compulsory.

Also, the distance between people in public spaces is reduced from two metres to 1.5 metres, and the midnight curfew for bars, restaurants, and nightclubs is lifted.

However, Matthias Egger, the head of the government’s Covid-19 Task Force, told Swiss media on Sunday that the new measures are “premature”. 

The average daily number of new infections has been below 30 since May 19th, but recent spikes have occurred in some regions. 

For instance, last week new pockets of infection were discovered in Valais as well as in Zug

“There is a risk that the number of cases will increase sharply in the near future, especially since there still isn’t a functioning surveillance system for the whole country and it is also unclear whether the tracing of contacts is well established”, Egger said,

READ MORE: Warnings in Switzerland of a 'second wave in summer' as coronavirus R-Rate rises above 1

According to Egger, the recent increase in the number of regional cases is likely due to the easing of lockdown restrictions that went into effect on May 11th. On that day, shops, markets, restaurants, gyms, museums, and libraries resumed their normal activities. 

It is still too early to know what the consequences of the further lifting of measures on May 28th, June 6th and June 15th might be, he added.

On those days Switzerland allowed more freedoms of movement, including the opening of borders with the Schengen zone countries. 

Earlier last week, Egger also warned that a second wave could hit Switzerland in the summer, rather than the oft-predicted autumn, if protection measures are not extended. 

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s tracing app, SwissCovid, will become available on June 26th. Authorities hope its use will curb the spread of the virus by tracking the infection chains. 

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