Zug, 14.01.2022

Man explains why he lied to the contact tracer

The duration and effectiveness of the quarantine requirement is again up for debate, while stories about the careless behaviour of infected people are increasing. The Zug cantonal doctor speaks of individual cases.

By his own admission, Hans Föhn* has difficulty telling a lie. But his corona test then came back as positive. When he was asked about his contacts on a specific day by the woman from contact tracing centre, however, he managed to tell an untruth. No, he hadn’t met anyone, he told her on the phone.

The 39-year-old from the canton of Zug held a rehearsal with his band on the day in question. The band included three members who are critical of the measures taken to combat Covid-19, and who were not vaccinated. They would therefore have had to go into quarantine for ten days. Hans Föhn thereby found himself in a dilemma:

"It felt weird and wrong not to tell the contact tracer the truth. But it would have felt just as wrong if the three bandmates had had to quarantine just because of me."

The motive is personal responsibility
He left the decision up to them. Was this because he didn't want to be seen as the "bad guy" who betrayed his colleagues? "No," says Föhn, "for me, it's about people's self-responsibility." He believes that each and every individual should be able to decide what is appropriate for him or her in order to protect others. However, he is also aware that, in the fight against the pandemic, relying solely on personal responsibility would "almost certainly not work". He himself had adhered to the quarantine regulations, because "a violation would have simply felt bad and illegal".

Stories like Hans Föhn's seem to be increasing in a similar extent to the number of Corona infections. Creating contact lists seems to be annoying to many people, particularly because most people in the area are vaccinated. And the stable situation in the hospitals and the associated discussion about the duration of the quarantine also probably take some of the horror out of the whole thing.

Mistakes are also conceivable
What experiences have the Zug Health Directorate had? Cantonal doctor Rudolf Hauri notes that "the vast majority of people" cooperate well with the authorities, and he assumes that there have been individual cases in which infected persons did not mention all their contact persons to the contact tracing centre "either intentionally or unintentionally", and he doesn’t want to speculate about the reasons for this. Whether there are any legal consequences of lying to the authority is not absolutely clear from the Epidemics Act.

The Zug cantonal physician Rudolf Hauri at the Contact Tracing Centre in Zug
Photo: Dominik Wunderli

More than 400 people are currently in quarantine in the canton of Zug. A clear drop in the number of people in quarantine last December can be seen In the statistics, before they rose again sharply in January. When asked about the reasons for this, Rudolf Hauri answered: "It’s to be expected that, with the increasing numbers of cases, proportionately fewer and fewer people will have to quarantine. The number of quarantine cases has thereby also increased, but not to the same extent as the isolations. The better the vaccination coverage and level of infection, the fewer people will have to quarantine in comparison to those having to isolate."

Quarantine only for "very close" contacts
Against the backdrop of the apparently inexorable rise in the number of corona cases, the usefulness of the quarantine measures are up for debate. From 3 January onwards, quarantine lasts 7 days instead of 10 in the canton of Zug. According to several media reports, the cantonal doctor Rudolf Hauri is campaigning for a further shortening of the quarantine throughout Switzerland. Does he still consider this measure to be sensible? He starts his reply by pointing out that, from the beginning of the year, quarantine has only been mandatory for roommates and "very close" contacts of infected persons, and adds: "As the risk of infection is actually high among these people, quarantine is still an effective remedy there – even if it no longer has the same significance as in earlier times."

* Name changed