Swiss finance minister skeptical about wider use of Covid certificate

Keystone / Peter Schneider

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer has reservations on the use of a mandatory heath certificate for daily life in Switzerland.

This content was published on September 5, 2021

In an interview with the SonntagsBlick newspaper published on Sunday, he said it would be “difficult” to require the population to present a Covid certificate when entering bars or restaurants.

The finance minister, who hails from the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, said requiring a health pass was viable for large events but harder to implement in smaller settings.

Switzerland could follow the example of Austria and Italy, where the health pass is mandatory in a wider range of establishments, but Maurer calls into question the social and political consequences of such an approach.

“It is not the task of the state to protect everyone from death and disease,” Maurer declared, echoing the mood of his party and the hospitality industry. “We must not create too many dependencies.”

The Swiss Covid-19 certificate provides proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative test result. A certificate requirement is already in place for nightclubs and large events. 

The Swiss government wants to expand the use of the Covid certificate if there is a threat of overcrowding at hospitals. This means anyone who wants to visit a restaurant, a gym or a theater will have to present a health certificate. 

The government's proposal—which was submitted to cantonal authorities for review—cinched the support of all political parties, with the exception of the Swiss People's Party. 

 + Cantonal health directors back extended use of Covid certificate

The business umbrella organization Economiesuisse is in favor of the measure, as are the Swiss Employers' Association and the hoteliers' association Hotelleriesuisse. They argue that it could help avert another lockdown.

The Swiss Trade Association and the hospitality industry association Gastrosuisse are against the Covid certificate requirement. Opponents of the government’s anti-Covid policy have forced a nationwide vote in November over the this issue.

Personal responsibility

Maurer, a Zurich native, also expressed the belief that the state should only play a limited role in vaccination, noting that he moves in circles where people sometimes do not want to get a jab.

"I come from the countryside, where people are very critical,” he told the newspaper. “It's not just eccentrics and conspiracy theorists, but upright Swiss people who say: now the state is going too far."

"If you die, you die, if you stay healthy, you stay healthy, and if you infect someone, it's your responsibility,” he added.

But Maurer urged those who are not vaccinated to exercise restraint and not provoke or participate in large demonstrations.

"We have not only a health and economic problem, but also a social problem," he lamented.

Pockets of protest

On Saturday, several thousand people demonstrated in Chur, Switzerland’s oldest town, against the restrictions imposed by the authorities to fight the coronavirus pandemic, according to Keystone-SDA news agency.

About 300 opponents of the government's coronavirus measures also demonstrated in Bern on Sunday, the same source reported. "No compulsory vaccination, no certificate, no division" was written on one of the banners.

With an average of about 2,500 new cases per day, Switzerland is in the grips of the fourth wave of the pandemic and – like other parts of Europe – saw a jump in the number of Covid cases after the summer holidays.  

Restaurants fret over possible Covid certificate requirement

A survey of nearly 3,000 establishments found most restaurants fear that their turnover will drop by at least 30% if the Covid certificate becomes mandatory, according to the Gastrosuisse umbrella organization.

"56.7% of the companies surveyed fear that the introduction of a mandatory certificate would result in a loss of sales of at least 30 percent, despite the lifting of capacity restrictions," Gastrosuisse president Casimir Platzer told Swiss public broadcasters SRF on Saturday evening.

According to the survey results, 23% of the companies fear losses of 50% or more should the certificate become a requirement. On the other hand, 13% of the companies believe that their turnover would not decrease if they were only allowed to receive people who have been vaccinated, screened and tested.

The survey consulted 2,850 establishments. About 14% of respondents expected sales losses of under 20%, another 16% expect losses in the 20-30% range.

Restaurateurs should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to rely on the Covid certificate or other protective measures and restrictions, Platzer argued.

Depending on the location of an establishment and its clientele, he added, a mandatory certificate may make sense.

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