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COVID-19 ALERT

Referendum: Swiss set to vote on compulsory vaccination

Switzerland is set to go to the polls to vote on whether vaccination can be made compulsory. If approved, the rule would prevent all kinds of mandatory vaccination, i.e. not just for Covid-19.

A member of the Swiss military pulls back the curtain at a vaccination site
Switzerland is set to vote on mandatory vaccinations. Photo: fabrice coffrini/afp

The popular initiative “For freedom and physical integrity” has been approved by Swiss authorities and will be brought to the ballot box. 

The Federal Chancellery approved the signatures on Friday, although the date for the vote has not yet been set.

The validation of the vote was the next step in seeing it hit the ballot boxes, after advocates collected 125,000 signatures — 25,000 more than needed to bring an issue to a nationwide vote – in December. 

Launched by the Swiss Freedom Movement (MLS), the initiative calls for each individual to have the right to decide what should or shouldn’t be injected or implanted in their body.

While the initiative was inspired by the Covid pandemic, the text would expressly prevent all forms of mandatory vaccination, not just efforts related to Covid-19. 

The text also specifies that “the person concerned must not be punished for having refused to give his consent, nor suffer social or professional disadvantages”.

While Switzerland does not currently plan to make Covid vaccinations mandatory – indeed, any compulsory vaccination efforts would be heavily restricted under existing Swiss law – those behind the referendum want to see any compulsory vaccinations banned outright. 

Current law on epidemics allows cantons to enforce compulsory vaccinations only “for groups at risk, for particularly exposed persons and for persons carrying out certain activities, provided that a serious danger is established”.

The law also grants the federal government the power to impose vaccination in consultation with the cantons. But at the same time, legislation also specifies that no one can be forced to get immunised against their will.

READ MORE: Will Switzerland make the Covid vaccine compulsory?

While advocates of the vote acknowledge that compulsory vaccination is unlikely, they want to prevent any “vaccination requirements which are introduced through the back door”. 

Austria has made Covid vaccinations compulsory, with hefty fines to be handed down for those who refuse. 

Germany is also set to hold a parliamentary vote on whether to make vaccinations mandatory, with new Chancellor Olaf Scholz in favour of such a move. 

Health Minister Alain Berset has repeatedly said that no one in Switzerland can be vaccinated against their will.

However, earlier in December incoming Swiss president Ignazio Cassis said he “didn’t want to categorically rule out nationwide mandatory vaccinations” as a last resort.

‘Justified by public interest’: How Switzerland could make vaccines compulsory

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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