Switzerland votes to ease Corona virus restrictions while the cases surge

Photo: AFP | Getty Images

The Swiss have one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, with slightly under two-thirds of the population completely vaccinated.

Covid-19 infections are now spreading at an alarming rate, with case numbers increasing by 40 to 50 percent each week.

So, does the health minister want to impose further limits, as in neighboring Germany, or possibly make vaccination mandatory, as in Austria?

Not even a bit. In fact, Switzerland will vote on Sunday to repeal some Covid-19 limitations entirely.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Swiss government has performed a delicate balancing act, attempting to implement measures to control the virus's spread while remaining true to Switzerland's system of direct democracy, in which the government has little formal power and the people have the final say.

But, despite a substantial drop in cases last summer, Switzerland did not hold a jubilant "freedom" day in the manner of the United Kingdom.

Instead, a Covid-19 certificate was introduced, along with confirmation of vaccination, a negative test, or immunity from having been infected with the virus. Entrance to pubs, cafés, restaurants, movies, museums, athletic events, and face-to-face university sessions became mandatory in September.

However, not everyone agrees.

Vaccination has long been a contentious subject in Switzerland, particularly in German-speaking Switzerland. A view that natural immunity is preferable led to a decrease in childhood measles vaccines, resulting in an increase in measles infections across Europe.

Meanwhile, in the alpine settlements, a historic pride in their independence, some believe rooted in the time when the mountain villages were cut off from the rest of the world each winter, means there is resistance to government commands.

As a result, when the certificate was implemented and Covid-19 tests were no longer free, life became tough for the unvaccinated, and simply going out for a beer became prohibitively expensive.

The regulations were intended to encourage individuals to get vaccinated, according to the authorities. Instead, many people rushed to the streets, while others collected enough signatures to challenge the Covid-19 certificate in a vote on Sunday.

Protests have been going on for weeks. Police have used water cannons and rubber bullets on protestors attempting to storm parliament.

Thousands attended a rally in Bern this month to hear speakers, including renowned anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr, who hailed Switzerland as Europe's last great hope against what he claimed were sinister powers forcing people to get vaccinated while also introducing a draconian mass surveillance system through the Covid-19 certificate.

The crowded audience, all mask-less, screamed their appreciation.

Some donned the extreme right's emblem, while others wore the far left's. Berset, the health minister, was portrayed as the devil, replete with red horns.

Manuela, a part-time student, was among the masses. She refuses to be vaccinated because she considers herself to be a "healthy young woman" who is unlikely to contract the virus.

In reality, the World Health Organization warns that, while young people are less likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19, they are still vulnerable to infection and the danger of catastrophic and long-term health repercussions.

Get the hospitals ready.

As a result, fearing more resistance to the Covid-19 certificate, the health minister is hesitant to impose any new limits ahead of Sunday's critical vote.

Berset and his science team are certain that infection control measures are required in Switzerland during this increasingly dismal Covid-19 winter. They feel that repealing the certificate would be a major danger, especially because booster vaccines have only recently begun.

Instead, as the number of patients increases, the government has recommended hospitals expand their critical care capacity. Switzerland's nurses have reacted angrily, pointing out that adding beds won't help if there aren't enough people to care for the patients in them.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, it is believed that 10% of Swiss nurses and caregivers have quit their jobs.

Publish : 2021-11-27 15:12:00

Give Your Comments