World, Europe

Swiss voters reject referendum to remove some COVID restrictions

62% oppose moves to scrap regulations to combat pandemic, including vaccination pass

Peter Kenny   | 29.11.2021
Swiss voters reject referendum to remove some COVID restrictions


Swiss voters showed their strong support Sunday for the government’s measures to counter COVID-19, with 62% rejecting a referendum to scrap some regulations to combat the pandemic despite growing protests against restrictions.

Swiss authorities described a much higher than average turnout of almost 66% in the heated referendum, and 24 of the country’s 26 cantons said “yes” to the keep laws for fighting the disease.

Voters particularly rejected a call to scrap the country’s COVID certificate or pass.

In September, Switzerland made it compulsory for those entering bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, museums and attending sporting events and face-to-face classes at universities to show their COVID certificate.

With 65.47% or just under two-thirds of the country’s 8.7 million people fully vaccinated, Switzerland has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe, and the number of people getting the jab is still only creeping up.

Now COVID-19 infections are shooting up, with health authorities saying that 42,518 new cases were reported last week, up 41% from the week before, and the number of cases is doubling every two weeks.

- Growing weekend protests

The capital Bern and German-speaking Switzerland have faced recent protests, some violent, in the past month against vaccination measures, with those supporting them coming from a broad spectrum.

At one November protest in Zurich, Urs Hans, a local politician and organic farmer, told the crowd “there has never been a pandemic,” to which they chanted “Freedom,” the Swiss news agency Keystone-SDA reported.

Sunday’s referendum was the second this year in response to the pandemic.

In June, 60% backed the initial COVID-19 law, the legal framework for Swiss financial and health measures to deal with the pandemic.

Later, opponents of the law gathered 187,000 signatures to challenge it in a referendum, well exceeding the minimum 50,000 needed to do so.

They said the legislation and certificate threaten individual liberties and social harmony, which amounts to a de facto vaccination obligation.

Also on Sunday, Swiss citizens voted to boost working conditions for health care workers, a measure that the government had opposed with a counter referendum proposal to strengthen training measures.

“The Swiss Nurses’ Association will make sure that pressure on the government is maintained. Both patients and nurses themselves must quickly feel the benefits of the improvements contained in the Nursing Care Initiative,” said Sophie Ley, the association’s president.

On Saturday, the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO) had postponed a critical ministerial meeting that was to discuss international commerce regulations, including issues relating to licensing and intellectual property rights around vaccines and other essential supplies used to fight the pandemic.

More than 3,000 ministers, trade officials, civil society members and journalists had been expected in Geneva for the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference that was due to run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 3 but was called off due to global travel restrictions imposed after the detection of the new COVID-19 strain Omicron.

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