Alain Berset: The reopening will be based on a risk calculation

CORONAVIRUS

Federal councilors Alain Berset and Guy Parmelin have guaranteed that should the situation evolve in the coming weeks new easing can be decided

Alain Berset: The reopening will be based on a risk calculation

Alain Berset: The reopening will be based on a risk calculation

The Federal Government convened today updating the public on developments regarding the fight against the coronavirus. The meeting was attended by Federal Councillors Guy Parmelin, president of the Confederation in office and head of the Federal Department of Economics, Education and Research, and Alain Berset, head of the Department of the Interior (and therefore of Public Health).

From Monday there will be the first cautious reopening, while the next steps will be gradually decided over the next few weeks. The government, in its session today, essentially confirmed what it announced a week ago. Young people up to 20 years old will be able to carry out most sporting and cultural activities, while bars and restaurants will remain closed at least until 22 March. «We understand the criticisms, but the situation is fragile» «The epidemiological situation remains fragile,« began Parmelin. “That’s why the situation needs to be analyzed in detail before taking the second step in reopening. The Federal Council is constantly evaluating the situation in all sectors - including the economy, stressed the President of the Confederation. «We understand the criticism» he said. «We understand the impatience people have in wanting to return to normal life as soon as possible.» «However, the variants of the virus continue to spread, and this worries us: we cannot ignore this development. Only a gradual opening is possible. «Governance means making political decisions that serve the common good to the best of one’s knowledge and conscience.» «We remain optimistic,« continued Alain Berset. «The first phase of the reopening will be on 1st March; the second on 22nd March. However, this will only be possible after an analysis that we will conduct on 12 March. A decision will be made on the 19th of the same month. Our goal is to open as quickly as possible. «The reopening system will be based on a risk calculation,« continued the Federal Councilor, promising that, should the situation evolve positively, new easing can be decided quickly.

Alain Berset: The reopening will be based on a risk calculation

Why haven’t the restaurants been given a green light?

«We have taken the cantons’ point of view into consideration and on some points the objections have been resolved,« Berset replied. “For example, we have expanded the measures for young people under the age of 20. As for outside dining and terraces this was not possible: they must remain closed ».

Is there any news regarding the so-called vaccination privileges?

«The discussions are still ongoing, several aspects need to be taken into consideration,« Parmelin replied.

Are we at the end of the second wave or the beginning of the third?

«It seems that the scenarios envisaged by the task force have been confirmed so far,« Berset replied. «The vaccination campaign is important: if we can slow down development now, we will have a good starting point for spring. We need to remain flexible and ready to adapt,” he added. «We can no longer lose control like we did last year.»

Will there be enough information on March 12 for further openings?

«On 12 March we will still be looking into the openings from the beginning of the month» said Berset. «But the development in the diffusion of the variants can already be observed. A definitive decision will then be taken on March 19th, when we will know more».

Will cantons carrying out mass tests be able to open earlier than others?

«There are no major regional differences, unlike what we observed last year,« Berset replied. “The virus is circulating everywhere.

When it comes to hardship cases, each canton manages the situation as they see fit, will this be a problem?

“There are some differences between the various cantons,” Parmelin replied. “With the spring session of Parliament, some decisions can be made to achieve greater uniformity. However, there are regional aspects that need to be taken into consideration,” he concluded.

«Switzerland is well prepared,« Berset said at a similar press conference last year. And now?

«We had no direct experience of such a pandemic at the time,« Berset replied. “It was only in 2013 that we passed the law on epidemics, which proved to be a good basis. But such a crisis was not foreseen: every day there is a surprise ». «I never thought a year ago that it would last so long and that we would be sitting here today with masks.»

«We weren’t naive,« Parmelin said. “We have always tried to make the right decisions at the right time. But it is difficult in such a situation.

Privately no more than 15 people are allowed to meet outside with family and friends. But not at an event - like a general association meeting. Why?

We want to make a distinction between private meetings and organized events: we want to be more cautious, given the fragility of the situation».

What will be the consequences if the cantons decide to not to take action by leaving the restaurant areas open?

«The ambiguities have been cleared,« Berset replied. “The terraces must be closed. There are no means of intervention by the Confederation, but I expect the rules to be applied”.

What will happen if a third wave comes? Will everything close again?

«If there are any worsening in the numbers of infections, we will have to examine how to react in a reasonable way,« concluded Berset.

THE PRESS RELEASE

The decisions in brief

After consulting the cantons, the Federal Council has decided: on Monday 1 March 2021, shops, museums and library reading rooms will be able to reopen. To these are added sports and outdoor leisure facilities, such as the outdoor areas of the zoological and botanical gardens. Outdoors, meetings between family and friends and sporting and cultural activities with no more than 15 people will also be allowed again. Children and young adults up to 20 years of age will be able to resume most sporting and cultural activities. This is what the Federal Council decided at its meeting on 24 February after consulting the cantons. The next reopening phase is scheduled for March 22, provided that the epidemiological situation allows it.

With a cautious and gradual reopening, the Federal Council intends to restore some oxygen to social and economic life, even if the epidemiological situation remains fragile due to the new, and more contagious, variants of the virus in circulation. The first reopening phase scheduled for March 1st essentially involves activities compatible with the obligation of the mask and compliance with the spacing rules, in which only a few people take part and in which contacts take place outdoors. In addition to the risk of transmission of the virus, the Federal Council has also taken social and economic aspects into account.

Shops reopen, but there will be limitations on the number of customers

All stores will be able to reopen on March 1st, but the number of customers present at the same time will be limited. Museums and reading rooms in archives and libraries may also reopen. The outdoor areas of recreational and leisure facilities, such as zoological and botanical gardens and amusement parks, will again be accessible to the public, but everywhere it will be mandatory to wear a mask and respect the spacing rules and capacity restrictions will apply. Even outdoor sports facilities, such as skating rinks, tennis and football fields or athletics stadiums, will be able to reopen their doors, but also in these structures, in addition to capacity limitations, the obligation to wear a mask or of the spacing. Popular sports competitions for adults and events are prohibited. Finally, gatherings of people and meetings between family and friends with a maximum of 15 people will be allowed again in the open air.

All sports and cultural activities without an audience are allowed for children under 20

The Federal Council wanted to expand the activities permitted for children, adolescents and young adults. To this end, it has therefore decided, on the one hand, to raise the age limit from 16 to 20 years (year of birth 2001 or later) to benefit from slackening in sport and culture and, on the other, to allow recovery of sports competitions and concerts, but without the presence of the public. Furthermore, singing activities of children’s and young people’s choirs and youth socio-cultural animation activities are again allowed.

The restaurant seating areas outside remain closed

The cantons have agreed with the risk-based strategy that the Federal Council has chosen for the resumption of activities and are broadly in favor of the proposed reopening. In its decision, the government college took into account some inputs from the cantons and other actors, such as the date on which the second phase of reopening should take place, the slackening for young people or the gatherings in the open, but has given up on reopen the restaurant terraces as early as 1 March, as requested by a small majority of the cantons, as the epidemiological situation remains fragile.

Numerous factors will have to be respected for the reopening of restaurants

The next reopening phase is scheduled for 22 March and will be preceded by a consultation with the cantons starting on 12 March and a decision by the Federal Council on 19 March. The possible slackening concerns, among other things, cultural and sporting events in the presence of the public in confined spaces, the obligation to telework, the practice of sport in indoor venues and the reopening of restaurant terraces. In order to assess its feasibility, the Federal Council will use a series of indicators: the positive rate, which must remain below 5 percent; the occupancy of beds in intensive care units with COVID-19 patients, which must not exceed 250 units; the average reproduction number in the last seven days, which must remain below 1 and, ultimately,

Before taking its decisions, the Federal Council will make an overall assessment of these indicators. If in the coming weeks the epidemiological situation were to evolve favorably, on March 22 the Government College could also consider the reopening of the indoor restaurants, the resumption of other indoor activities and the return to presidential teaching in university schools.

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