Protesters gather in small Swiss town for ‘silent protest’ against Covid measures

Thousands of demonstrators descended on the small northern Swiss town of Liestal Saturday to demand an end to anti-Covid measures that have shut restaurants and other venues for months.

Protesters gather in small Swiss town for 'silent protest' against Covid measures
File photo: An anti-lockdown protester in Zurich in August 2020. credit: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Between 3,000 and 5,000 people, many wearing white protection jumpsuits, gathered in the small town in the Basel canton for what they have called a “Silent Protest”, according to estimates by journalists on site.

The protesters, many not wearing facemasks, held signs with messages reading “Enough!”, “Vaccines kill” and “Let love guide you, not fear”.

They accuse the Swiss government of using dictatorial powers to impose restrictions aimed at reining in Covid-19 transmission.

SEE ALSO: Switzerland to extend measures to fight Covid-19 ‘third wave’

The demonstration, which had police authorisation, is the latest in a series of public protests across the country in recent months, including one earlier this month in the small, picturesque town of Chur that drew over 4,000 people.

Organisers of Saturday’s demonstration in Liestal, which has a population of around 14,500 people, said in a statement they expected around 5,000 people to take part, but urged more to join.

They complained in a statement ahead of the march that the Swiss government had taken the country “hostage” over a year ago.

“We are going to Liestal to say to the people: it is time to stop the measures,” the statement said.

“These measures make no sense. To protect one percent of people at risk, they are destroying the lives of 99 percent of the population,” it said.

The march comes a day after the Swiss government dashed hopes that many Covid restrictions would be lifted next week.

Switzerland had been expected to continue lifting a range of measures imposed in December and January after a major spike in cases.

It had allowed museums and non-essential shops to reopen from March 1, and had signalled it could allow outdoor areas at restaurants and bars to reopen, and change the requirement to work from home, from next Monday.

But Health Minister Alain Berset said Friday it was too soon to remove most restrictions, warning of the danger of a “third wave” of infections.

As of Monday, the number of people permitted to attend indoor private gatherings will increase from five to 10, the government said.

But it said all other measures, including restaurant closures, would remain in place for at least another month.

Switzerland, a country of 8.6 million people, has to date counted nearly 578,000 cases of the virus, and 9,455 deaths.

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new ‘relaxed’ coronavirus measures?

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Thousands take part in illegal protest against Covid measures in Switzerland

Thousands of protesters marched in an illegal demonstration in eastern Switzerland on Saturday against measures aimed at reducing the spread of Covid-19.

Thousands take part in illegal protest against Covid measures in Switzerland
A file photo of a man wearing a helmet, made to look like the common image of a corona virus, takes part to a protest on August 29, 2020 in Zurich. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

With hardly a face mask in sight, the demonstrators marched through the small, picturesque town of Rapperswil-Jona waving large Swiss flags and shouting “Freedom”.

Police in the St Gallen region said in a statement that around 4,000 people showed up for the demonstration, which was not granted a permit.

No violence was reported during the protest which was the latest in a string across the country organised by a group called Stiller Protest (silent protest).

The authorities said they had attempted to dissuade people from participating in the rally, stopping cars headed towards the town centre and explaining the illegal nature of the gathering.

They said however that they had chosen not to forcibly break up the event for fear the situation could escalate, insisting that “a tough crackdown would not have been justifiable under the rule of law”.

IN PICTURES: Inside Switzerland’s anti-coronavirus lockdown protests

Police said they had briefly detained two people and had expelled 45 people from the town for 24 hours.

They had also demanded that a crowded coach headed to the protest turn around.

The protesters accuse the Swiss government of using dictatorial powers to impose restrictions aimed at reining in Covid-19 transmission.

Switzerland is in the process of gradually loosening its Covid restrictions with sports facilities and outdoor areas of bars and restaurants for instance permitted to reopen earlier this week.

But critics say the return to normality is taking too long.

The wealthy Alpine nation of 8.6 million people has counted nearly 650,000 cases and close to 10,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Nearly 10 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

While the Covid-19 situation in the country appears fairly stable, it announced Saturday that it had detected its first case of the Covid-19 variant being partially blamed for the explosive outbreak in India.