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‘We were too lax’ admits Swiss health minister on Covid-19

Alain Berset speaking about his experience as health minister in 2020 SRF

In an interview with Swiss public television, SRF, Health Minister Alain Berset has acknowledged that Switzerland made mistakes in managing the coronavirus outbreak.

“We were too lax,” Berset said, pointing out that in the summer – after the first wave – people had the feeling that the worst was over. “And then we were far too optimistic when we thought we could reopen the big events in the fall.”

The worst thing, however, is to freeze and do nothing when dealing with a crisis, added Berset. And one thing is clear: “If you make mistakes, you have to correct them as quickly as possible.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has pushed Berset’s own physical limits as well. As he told SRF, there were moments during the first wave when he no longer knew whether it was day or night, weekday or weekend. He said he had never experienced anything like that before.

He said that people’s health had top priority, even if that required controversial measures like closing the schools for nearly two months – “probably the most difficult decision for us”. And despite the vaccine and better medicines, he believes that the virus “will not disappear so quickly”.

The Swiss way – which gives the individual cantons a lot of control – has its price, added Berset. “It demands personal responsibility, common sense and foresight from everyone. If that doesn’t work, we have to tighten the measures. That’s what we’ve done,” said the health minister, adding that he was impressed by the solidarity shown in the spring.

The SRF interview with Berset airs on Sunday, on SRF’s “Sternstunde Philosophie” programme.

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