by Adriana Stimoli
Published by The Graduate Press in French, 17 April 2020
Seven weeks after the announcement of the first measures taken by the Confederation in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, the Federal Council announced Thursday, April 16 the steps allowing a relaxation of the containment measures, starting from April 27. Alain Berset, Federal Councilor at the head of the Department of the Interior, began by recalling that semi-containment measures had so far been well respected by the population. Consequently, Berset added that “the current epidemiological situation allows for a relaxation of the containment rules.”
The transition from confinement to deconfinement begins on Monday, April 27. A way out of the crisis described as “slow and progressive”, and which must take place through different stages. Indeed, Alain Berset explained that it was crucial “not to spoil all the efforts undertaken so far” and “continue to respect the rules of social distancing and hygiene”. All in all, “acting as quickly as possible but as slowly as necessary” is the key phrase that can summarize the strategy of the Swiss authorities, and which was repeated several times during the press conference held this Thursday.
First stage: April 27
- Ambulatory and medical treatment of all kinds, like operations and medical appointments, will again be guaranteed. Doctors, dentists and physiotherapy offices will be reopened.
- All “personal services” will be authorized again. Among other things, this category includes hairdressers but also esthetic salons and tattoo parlors.
- Garden centers as well as florists and construction stores will also be able to reopen.
- All the shops and services mentioned must be able to guarantee the safety of their employees and customers or patients.
Second stage: May 11
- The reopening of compulsory schools, as well as other shops and markets is planned. Details are however still expected and to be announced on April 29.
Third stage: June 8
- Libraries, museums and botanical gardens should reopen at this time. The same goes for other places of entertainment. A decision on May 27 will be made on this matter. The Federal Council indicates being prone to readjust its strategy at this time, if necessary.
Although the Federal Council has never decreed a strict confinement, the authorities continue to recommend the population to stay home — especially for individuals who might be at risk — and to respect both social distancing and hygiene measures. Gatherings of more than five people remain prohibited beyond April 27. The Federal Council announced that this measure will probably not be relaxed until June.
Wearing a mask is still not recommended for people who are not at risk. However, a mask remains recommended for people at risk as well as for individuals exposed to the virus through their professional activity. Alain Berset recalls that this decision is based on the analysis of various experts and that, depending on the evolution of the situation, the authorities could revert this measure.
As of Tuesday 14, April, the Federal Office of Public Health (OFSP) announced that Switzerland had probably passed the peak of the epidemic. According to figures available this Thursday, April 16, 26,732 positive cases were tested, with 315 more cases in one day — against more than 1,300 cases reported in 24 hours at the height of the crisis.
Geneva government awaits clarifications from the Federal Council
Following the announcements on the next steps to be taken by the Federal Council, the Geneva State Council held a press conference on Thursday, April 17. Antonio Hodgers, head of the cantonal government, emphasized on the gradual nature of the deconfinement. Following this, the Health minister Mauro Poggia explained that the national situation is still described as “extraordinary” based on the Swiss Epidemics Act. As such, each stage of deconfinement will have to be further validated by the Federal Council, notably in light of the various effects induced by the first steps of deconfinement. “Nothing has to be taken for granted,” adds Mauro Poggia in a serious tone, before further specifying that all measures of social distancing, hygiene but also police control will be maintained across the canton.
“We are waiting for the Federal Council” announces Minister Anne Emery-Torracinta. Indeed, Geneva State Council has to wait for decisions on deconfinement by the Federal Council to be confirmed and specified by April 29 and May 27. In addition, the State Council is also waiting to know how much room to maneuver will be left to the different cantons, according to the Swiss federal system.
- The Geneva State Council recalls that the modalities of opening schools but also deconfinement in general, are all elements which remain to be refined by the Federal Council, notably over the next few days and weeks.
- With the gradual resumption of economic activities and the required maintenance of health measures and precautions, many questions will arise. A press conference on this matter will be held by the cantonal doctor on Thursday, April 17 at 5 p.m.
- The nurseries in the canton are required to provide a reception service. Their complete reopening remains to be defined in collaboration with the various municipalities.
- Complete reopening of the borders remains to be negotiated with the Federal Council. This is a “central concern” for the Geneva State Council, according to Mauro Poggia.
Photo by Thomas Peham on Unsplash