Swiss tone down national celebrations as virus cases rise

Swiss tone down national celebrations as virus cases rise
A picture taken on on July 31, 2020 near Schwagalp, eastern Switzerland, shows a 6,400 square meters Swiss flag hanging on the rock face of mountain Saentis on the eve of Swiss national day. Photo: FA
Switzerland held muted celebrations on its national day Saturday as the Swiss president warned the coronavirus crisis was far from over, with positive tests spiking again.

“The virus is still there. We have to live with it while we wait for a vaccine,” President Simonetta Sommaruga told national broadcaster RTS. “It's not over — that is very clear.”

The wealthy Alpine nation has recorded 35,323 positive tests and 1,706 deaths since the pandemic began.

Daily case numbers were low and stable but have crept up again in recent weeks, with the 200 mark being passed on Thursday and Friday for the first time since April 23.

In response, Geneva has shut down its nightclubs again.

READ: Two out of three new coronavirus infections come from nightclubs or restaurants 

The August 1 date marks the signing of the Federal Charter of 1291, when three of Switzerland's now 26 cantons first joined together in confederation.

Besides fireworks across the landlocked European nation of some 8.5 million people, the heart of the country's festivities are at Grutli, a meadow overlooking Lake Lucerne, where the 1291 agreement is celebrated as having been sealed.

‘Freedom, independence, equality': Switzerland chooses new English-language ‘national anthem' 

Last year, more than 2,000 people attended the ceremony, but only 150 people were allowed to take part this time due to coronavirus restrictions.

Gatherings of more than 1,000 people have been banned. A man a woman from each canton — 54 key workers who helped keep Switzerland running during the lockdown — were chosen to join Sommaruga for the festivities.

READ: Why Switzerland celebrates its national day on August 1st 

She praised all those who made sure Switzerland kept functioning during the pandemic in her speech.

US President Donald Trump sent his congratulations to Switzerland, insisting both nations would emerge from the pandemic “stronger and more resilient”.

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