Swiss army prepares to deploy to assist coronavirus fight

Switzerland's armed forces said on Saturday that the army is prepared to deploy to help in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 1,000 people in the country.

Swiss army prepares to deploy to assist coronavirus fight
Illustration photo: AFP

The army will as of Monday deploy one of its four hospital battalions, army chief Thomas Sussli said in a tweet.

The battalion will carry out a “special service towards the security and protection of us all,” he wrote.

While he did not clarify the specific service to be provided, he pointed out that more than 90 percent of the personnel in Switzerland's hospital battalions “work in other professions, but have civilian-recognised, military-acquired basic care training.”

Army spokesman Daniel Reist told AFP that the battalion, made up of between 500 and 600 people, will be prepared to support work at hospitals across the country if requested.

“There has not yet been a request,” he said.

The army has already deployed 23 people to support two hospitals in Switzerland's southern Ticino region, which borders hard-hit Italy, he said.

The Swiss government meanwhile warned on Saturday that cybercriminals had begun sending out emails purportedly from the country's health ministry, playing on people's anxiety over the pandemic to try to infect their computers with malware.

The news came after Switzerland on Friday announced a raft of measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, including school closures and tighter border controls, and said it would provide $10 billion to help businesses and workers get through the crisis.

According to the last count on Friday, 1,125 people have been infected in the small Alpine country and seven have died from the virus.

The overall death toll from the new virus, which first emerged in China in December, has jumped to more than 5,000 across the world, including nearly 1,500 in Europe, with total infections topping 140,000 internationally, according to an AFP tally based on official sources.



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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?