Will Switzerland end its shutdown on Monday?

Will Switzerland end its shutdown on Monday?
Swiss restaurants may not re-open yet. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
Swiss authorities will announce on Friday whether current restrictions will be lifted on March 22nd or stay in place longer.

The Federal Council set March 19th to decide if it will ease some of the current measures. They include the re-opening of outdoor restaurants and upping the limit for indoor gatherings from five to 10 people.

But there is some doubt now whether this will happen, as the number of daily cases reported on Wednesday jumped significantly to 1,858 from 1,438 the day before.

Originally these measures were supposed to be lifted on April 1st, but under pressure from cantons and economic groups, the government agreed to consider earlier re-openings if the epidemiological situation allows it.

In order for that to happen, a number of criteria has to be met: the infection positivity rate over 14 days should fall below 5 percent, occupancy of the intensive care units (ICU) by coronavirus patients should be below 25 percent, and the R-rate  — which indicates Covid’s ability to spread —must be below 1. 

Right now, the infection rate is 5.1 percent and the R-rate stands at 1,14 — meaning that the disease is spreading quickly.

However, the number for the occupancy of ICUs by Covid patients is below the threshold, at 17.6 percent.

This means that while more people are contaminated, fewer develop complications that require hospitalisations.

READ MORE: Rising infection rates put Switzerland’s March reopening plans in jeopardy

How likely is it that restrictions will be lifted on Monday?

“A broad or complete abandonment of restrictive measures to combat the spread of Covid-19 is associated with unacceptable risks”, according to the Conference of Cantonal Directors and Directors of Health (CDS).

The CDS, which is well aware of the epidemiological situation in their respective cantons,  also noted that the UK variant, more contagious and potentially at the origin of more serious complications, is now dominant, accounting for 80 percent of new infections detected in Switzerland.

If the re-opening happens too quickly, “the consequences would be serious in terms of health and the economy”, CDS said.

It also added that “the effects of the first deconfinement at the beginning of March are not yet fully perceptible. Small delay in the lifting of restrictive measures could be decisive in determining whether a strong third wave occurs or whether the spread of the virus can be slowed by vaccination”.

“Therefore, caution is still indicated”.

The Federal Council is consulting with cantonal health authorities before delivering its decision on Friday.

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