Lockdown opponents ratchet up pressure on Swiss government

Several peaceful protests have been staged around Switzerland in recent weeks. Keystone / Urs Flueeler

The Swiss government is facing intensified calls from cantons and parliamentarians to re-open restaurants and ease lockdown measures at a faster rate than previously announced.

This content was published on February 28, 2021 - 11:59

Shops, cultural and outdoor recreational facilities will be allowed to open up from Monday as part of a staggered easing of measures. But restaurants and bars will have to wait until at least March 22 and only re-open on this date if the Covid-19 infection rate remains under control.

This ruling has generated protest from many cantons, several of which this week reluctantly ordered restaurants to stop serving food to skiers from outdoor terraces. The Swiss hotel association has also warned of further losses for its members over the winter season.

Their protests have been backed by a parliamentary cross-party commission that has voted to recommend that restaurants can definitely re-open on March 22. It also believes that cantons should be given more autonomy on deciding when to impose temporary lockdown measures. The commission’s recommendations carry no binding weight but send a powerful signal of parliamentary sentiment to the government.

Around 800 demonstrators gathered in the Swiss city of Neuchâtel on Saturday to protest against the continued enforced closure of restaurants. The demonstration, which featured signs with slogans such as “Take off your masks”, “Freedom” and “Enough”, passed off without incident.

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