Will Switzerland extend emergency Covid restrictions?

Will Switzerland extend emergency Covid restrictions?

Fri, May 5th 2023

Swiss voters will have the chance to vote on three national issues next month: minimum tax rates for international companies, a ban on fossil fuels and the current Covid-19 laws.
Swiss people protest against the Covid regulations in front of the country’s Parliament in Bern in early 2022 (Keystone SDA).

Swiss voters on June 18th will have the opportunity to decide how Switzerland deals with three issues currently facing the nation: the “Glacier Initiative,” setting a minimum tax rate for international companies, and whether the mobile Covid certificate could be re-instated if Covid cases surge in the future.

More on the tax reform

The tax reform is aimed at creating greater tax equality globally by requiring a minimum tax rate of 15% on multinational companies. The initiative, which was proposed by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), asks Switzerland as an OECD member to comply with its proposal.

Currently, 21 of the 26 Swiss cantons have tax rates below 15% as Switzerland has long been a favorite country for international companies to set up shop in.

Inside Switzerland’s Parliament where the laws are made (Keystone SDA).
More on the climate vote

In 2019, the “Glacier Initiative” was presented which calls for a complete ban on fossil fuels and an end to greenhouse gasses by 2050.

The Federal Council has denounced the plan as going “too far” and presented a more moderate counter-proposal in 2022 called “The Federal Act on Climate Protection Goals, Innovation and Strengthening Energy Security” to help Switzerland reach climate neutrality by 2050. Meaning Switzerland cannot emit more greenhouse gasses than it produces.

The right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) has not been in favor of the Federal Council’s counter-proposal and collected enough voter signatures to trigger a voter referendum that would strike down the Federal Council’s measure. The SVP says the measure is an “electricity guzzler” that will harm the population and economy as it will have to rely solely on electricity in the midst of an energy crisis.

About 70% of Switzerland has had at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Covid again?

The most controversial of the three issues is an answer to Parliament’s 2022 decision to extend federal Covid-19 measures through June 2024. Should Covid cases in the future surge to a certain number, the federal government would reinstate measures such as closing borders, allocating financing for Covid medications, and reinstating the Covid Mobile Certificate.

While Covid-19 vaccines were never mandatory in Switzerland, they were heavily encouraged. Over the course of 2021, Switzerland launched a nationwide campaign persuading residents to get vaccinated. As part of that campaign, Switzerland created the mobile certificate to distinguish between residents who had been vaccinated and those who had not.

Read more: How many Swiss died from the Covid vaccine?

Swiss restaurants, bars, cinemas, and other public places required patrons to first show proof they had been vaccinated before entering. Residents who chose not to be vaccinated said they felt ostracized and protested by the thousands against the certificate.

The “Mesures NON” group collected enough voter signatures to trigger a voter referendum that would undo Parliament’s extension of Covid regulations under the notion that the restrictions are discriminatory.

Nicolas Rimoldi hands over a box with collected signatures for the voter referendum against extending the Covid restrictions (Keystone SDA).
The third referendum

In the two previous referendums on Covid restrictions, the Swiss have supported the government. About 60% voted in favor of restrictions in June 2021 and about 62% voted again favor in November 2021.

It is worth noting that just days before the November vote now-President Alain Berset went onto a national television show during prime time viewing hours and announced that those who have the Covid-19 vaccine cannot spread the virus. At the time, Berset was serving as the head of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

“With the certificate, you can show you are not contagious,” Berset said on the TV program. But, a FOPH study published nearly three months before Berset’s statement proved otherwise and Berset had those results.

The study was published August 3, 2021 and led by Virginie Masserey, head of infection control and vaccines at the FOPH. Masserey and her team of researchers found that the vaccine did not reduce the contagiousness of Covid-19, even if vaccinated people were not showing Covid-19 symptoms. Days after Berset’s statement, Masserey resigned from the FOPH.

Swiss protest against Covid regulations, including the Mobile Covid Certificate in Zurich in 2022. In February of that year, Switzerland dropped the use of the mobile pass (Keystone SDA).
Who is for it and who is against it

Those against extending the regulations say the Mobile Covid Certificate is useless and discriminatory. The most popular political party in Switzerland, the SVP, opposes reinstating the restrictions.

Those in favor of extending Covid regulations say it allows the government to act quickly to protect the country’s most vulnerable residents. In addition, the regulations allow the swift allocation of funds to health care facilities and to import Covid medications. The Federal Council and most of Swiss Parliament support the extension.

Should Swiss voters choose to vote down Parliament’s extension, all measures will be dropped by mid-December of this year.

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