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Will Switzerland tighten measures after successful Covid referendum?

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference announcing new measures against the coronavirus on October 18, 2020 in Bern. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Almost two-thirds of Swiss voters said on Sunday they supported the country’s Covid certificate. Will the government use it as a mandate to tighten measures?

Switzerland’s Federal Council will meet on Wednesday to evaluate whether more measures are needed in the battle against the pandemic. 

The government will be buoyed by a positive result in Sunday’s referendum, where 62 percent of Swiss voters supported the country’s Covid measures, including the Covid certificate. 

In the lead up to the vote, experts and commentators speculated that the government would not put in place tighter measures until after the vote in order to not risk a protest vote in the referendum. 

READ MORE: Is Switzerland delaying imposing new measures due to Covid referendum?

While the government publicly disagreed with such a conclusion – Health Minister Alain Berset replied “I hope not” when he was asked if tighter measures were being delayed until after the referendum – some commentators found it odd, particularly as Switzerland’s epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate. 

On Sunday evening after the vote, Berset told the press “democracy works”, but did not indicate whether tighter measures were on their way. 

Is Switzerland set to tighten Covid measures? 

On the Friday before the vote, the Swiss government ruled out further measures for the meantime, saying that it was the responsibility of the cantons rather than the federal government to tighten the rules. 

While some cantons have responded by putting in place tighter mask rules or other restrictions, as yet these have been relatively relaxed in comparison to Austria, where there is a nationwide lockdown and an upcoming mandatory vaccination campaign, or Germany where bars and restaurants have been closed in some regions. 

READ MORE: Swiss president tells cantons to prepare hospitals for Covid patients

Since the referendum however, several politicians have spoken out in favour of tighter measures, including restricting Covid certificate activities only to those who have been vaccinated or who have recently recovered from the virus (known as the 2G rule). 

SP co-chief Cédric Wermuth said on Sunday evening that nothing should be off the table as the country battles the pandemic. 

“At the moment I am not ruling out a single measure that is being discussed if the epidemiological situation should worsen,” he said. 

“The yes to the law is a vote of confidence in Alain Berset’s approach to dealing with the pandemic.”

FDP National Councilor Matthias Jauslin said on Monday that Switzerland should “seriously consider putting in place 2G in certain areas of life”. 

“I would like to encourage the unvaccinated to make a contribution to our society and the health system.”

Ruth Humbel, from Die Mitte, said “mandatory vaccination for certain groups are certainly conceivable”, for instance nursing home residents or people in risk groups. 

READ MORE: Will Switzerland make the Covid vaccine compulsory?

The Young Greens said the election result should be seen as a sign that tighter measures are supported by the population. 

“Today the population has clearly spoken out in favour of the certificate and measures to protect the population. That must be the yardstick for further measures – and not the screams of a loud minority.”

Peter Metzinger, who founded a society in support of the Covid Act, said the government needed to take actions to prevent “more deaths, more suffering” including mandatory testing at events even if people have been vaccinated, along with looking into mandatory vaccination. 

READ MORE: What new Covid-19 rules are likely in Switzerland?

The SVP however has said tighter measures should be avoided, due to fears of sewing further social division. 

The SVP’s Thomas Aeschi said a result of 80 percent would be the minimum standard from which the government could draw a mandate on Covid rules. 

“The ‘yes’ vote to the proposal in no way means that the societal divisions should be pushed further” he said. 

“The Covid law was mainly adopted because the population is afraid of the only partially protective vaccination and the mutations that keep occurring.”

Aeschi pushed for tighter border controls rather than stricter Covid certificate requirements. 

“If people from abroad are still not checked, we will soon have an explosion in the number of Omikron cases here in Switzerland too.”

Switzerland on the weekend added the Czech Republic, Netherlands, Egypt, Malawi and the United Kingdom to its list of virus variant countries, which also includes Belgium, Botswana, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

READ MORE: Switzerland bans all UK citizens and residents arriving from UK

Does the population support tighter measures? 

While some segments of the population have indicated their opposition to tighter measures, a majority of Swiss are in favour of tighter measures being imposed on the unvaccinated. 

A poll by Switzerland’s Tamedia group held on the day of the referendum showed that 60 percent of people want tighter measures for the unvaccinated – roughly the same percentage which voted in favour of the Covid Act at the referendum. 

Respondents disagreed on the exact nature of the measures, with 37 percent calling for a 2G rule, 35 percent calling for capacity restrictions on events and 34 percent calling for mandatory vaccination. 

The government will meet to discuss possible Covid measures on Wednesday. 


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