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.

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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?