The falls soar, but the Swiss avoid locking when the vote on covidlag looms

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Like others in Europe, Switzerland is facing a sharp increase in coronavirus cases

On Sunday, as part of the country’s regular referendum, Swiss voters will vote on the so-called “COVID-19 law” which has unlocked billions of Swiss francs (dollars) in support of workers and companies affected by the pandemic. The law has also introduced the use of a special covid certificate that only allows people who have been vaccinated, recovered or tested negative to participate in public events and gatherings.

If the Swiss give a thumbs up, the government may well step up its anti-COVID efforts.

The vote offers a relatively rare time for public opinion, especially on the issue of the government’s policy to fight the coronavirus in Europe, the global epicenter of the pandemic. The continent enjoys relatively high vaccination rates compared to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but has been almost alone in meeting an increase in the number of cases in recent weeks.

Surveys indicate that a solid majority of Swiss people will approve the measure, which has already entered into force, and a rejection of which would end the restrictions – as well as the payments. But in recent weeks, opponents have raised a lot of money for their campaign and received support from abroad, including a visit from US anti-vaccination activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at a meeting in the capital Bern this month.

The Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag reported that activists have sent hundreds of petitions to government offices around the country, claiming that the language of the referendum is vague and does not mention the “COVID certificate” which provides access to places such as restaurants and sporting events.

On Tuesday, Swiss health authorities warned of a rising “fifth wave” in the rich alpine region, where vaccination rates are roughly in line with those in hard-hit Austria and Germany – about two-thirds of the population. The number of infections has skyrocketed in recent weeks. The average number of cases over seven days in Switzerland rose to more than 5,200 per day from mid-October to mid-November, a more than fivefold increase – with an upward curve like those in neighboring Germany and Austria.

Austria has responded with a very cumbersome lockdown, and Germany – which forms a new government as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s term comes to an end – has taken some steps such as requiring workers to provide their employers with proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test set. enters into force next week.

The Swiss Federal Council, the executive branch with seven members, went out on Wednesday to say: “It is not time to order a tightening of measures across the country”, while choosing a region-by-region strategy and urging citizens to act responsibly through worm-bearing, physical distancing and proper ventilation of indoor areas.

This is even though the Council acknowledged in a statement that cases – especially among young people – are increasing and “the number of daily infections has reached a record for the year and the exponential increase continues.” Hospital admissions – especially among the elderly – are also increasing, it was said, but not as fast.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has insisted that his government has not tightened restrictions as COVID-19 patients still make up only a small proportion of people in intensive care units.

“But we also know that the number of hospitalizations lags behind the number of infections,” said Pascal Sciarini, a political scientist at the University of Geneva. “One can imagine that if Switzerland did not have this special event – the vote on Sunday – we would already be preparing (the) next step.”

The Swiss council may simply hold its breath over the weekend, he suggested.

“I would not be surprised if as early as next week, the tone changes,” Scarini said. “It’s starting to give way … the Federal Council will surely wait until after the referendum.”


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