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Coronavirus: anti-lockdown protests in Switzerland

© Ocskay Mark |

Over the weekend, hundreds rallied against lockdown measures across Switzerland in the cities of Bern, Zurich, Basel and St. Gallen.

Anti-lockdown protesters in these cities flouted rules introduced in mid-March banning public groups of more than five people, designed to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The protestors consider the rules in breach of their fundamental rights.

In Bern and St. Gallen, dozens were stopped by the police and face fines, according to the newspaper 20 Minutes. In Bern, police were booed when they asked the crowd to disperse.

Bertrand Kiefer, a Swiss doctor and advisor on biomedical ethics, thinks they’re voicing a concern that the economy will collapse. But we must continually remind ourselves that in countries where nothing has been done, the economy has also been hit, without a doubt even more. It isn’t the measures taken to protect us from the virus that are the problem but the pandemic itself, he said, according to 20 Minutes.

There were no protests in French-speaking Switzerland, according to the newspaper. The French-speaking region has been hit harder by the virus than the German-speaking part where protestors took to the streets. Some have described this as the Coronagraben in reference to the geographic border between the two linguistic regions known as the Röstigraben.

Geneva and Vaud, Switzerland’s two most populous French-speaking cantons, along with Ticino, have had the highest rates of infection. Geneva (100), Vaud (67) and Ticino (92) have had many times the number of Covid-19 cases per 10,000 residents as Bern (18), Zurich (23) and St. Gallen (16). Only Basel (50), where there were also protestors, has had a rate close to Vaud and Geneva. Covid-19 deaths in Geneva and Vaud account for 36% of Switzerland’s total, while these cantons make up only around 15% of the nation’s total population.

These were not Switzerland’s first anti-lockdown protests. The weekend before, around 300 protestors assembled in Bern, according to the Berner Zeitung, a local newspaper.

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