Switzerland rules out second lockdown despite dramatic Covid-19 rise

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer

Like the rest of Europe, Switzerland was hit by a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. But there has been no second lockdown. Economic arguments prevail as people continue to go about their daily lives, dpa reported.

Switzerland is not only one of Europe's wealthiest countries, with one of the best health systems. It also has one of the highest Covid-19 infection and death numbers in the region. However, many people still eat and drink in restaurants and bars, shop in bustling markets, sweat in fitness centres and gamble in casinos. Brothels also remain open.

In the past seven days, 351 people per 100,000 inhabitants caught the coronavirus in Switzerland, more than twice the rate of neighbouring Germany. And since the start of the pandemic, 41 per 100,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Switzerland, compared to 16 in Germany.

On Monday, the Swiss Federal Office for Public Health reported more than 9,700 new infections and over 200 deaths related to Covid-19 over the past three days. Despite all this, politicians, officials and the population have stuck to a relatively relaxed approach, without a second lockdown.

While new lockdown measures have been imposed in neighbouring France, Austria and parts of Italy, Switzerland's shopping centres opened their Christmas shopping season ahead of the major December holiday. "Children have to go to school. We must be able to live, to earn money, to go shopping," Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said this month in a video interview posted by his right-wing People's Party (SVP). The federal government in Bern is taking a hands-off approach vis-a-vis the country's 26 cantons, whose regional independence is highly valued.

When infection numbers skyrocketed again in October, dozens of economists issued an open letter in early November. "Unfortunately, and painful as it will be, Switzerland now needs a second 'lockdown'," they wrote, also calling for strong fiscal support to balance the restrictions.

 

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