Hundreds protest over restaurant closures

Restaurant owners fear they may be shut down until March, with devastating effects on businesses and jobs. Keystone / Martial Trezzini

Up to 600 restaurant owners have protested in the western Swiss city of Neuchâtel in anger at a possible extension to the end of February of their shutdown.

This content was published on January 9, 2021 - 17:43

The authorised demonstration was peaceful and drew 500 to 600 people, according to the organisers. They said representatives from the sports and cultural sectors and members of political parties joined the masked protestors.

They had been called via a Facebook page to protest in “anger at the authorities’ management of the health crisis”.

Restaurant owner and organizer of the protest Laurent Tschanz said restaurants were being targeted as a source of Covid-19 infections because “they are the only sector required to do contact tracing. An infected person could have got infected anywhere, for example in a supermarket, but it’s the restaurant that has taken details which has to close and is considered responsible”.

Third shutdown

Restaurants in Neuchâtel, like in other parts of western French-speaking Switzerland, are currently in their third shutdown, after being allowed to reopen for some two weeks in December. Businesses in this part of the country, which had higher numbers of Covid-19 cases this autumn, have been harder hit than elsewhere, but all restaurants have been closed since December 22.

Initially announced for a month, the federal government is now considering extending the shutdown until March, with an announcement expected next week. It is also expected to announce new measures to help cushion the economic effects on affected sectors.   

Responding to calls for faster, simpler compensation, economics minister Guy Parmelin, who also assumed the rotating Swiss presidency at the beginning of the year, has ruled out a new mechanism. The system must be simplified rather than creating a new one, so that funds can flow quickly, he told Swiss public broadcaster SRF on Friday evening.

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