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World: Cases soar but Swiss eschew lockdown as COVID law vote looms

Germany, With Higher Vaccination Rate Than U.S., Sees Biggest Ever Surge in COVID Cases

  Germany, With Higher Vaccination Rate Than U.S., Sees Biggest Ever Surge in COVID Cases Thursday marked the first time Germany reported more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day. Merkel, the outgoing German chancellor, said the "dramatic" situation was the result of the fourth wave "hitting our country with full force."Although Germany's vaccination rate surpasses that of the U.S., which is currently 58.9 percent per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it has one of the lowest vaccination rates in western Europe.

GENEVA (AP) — Like many others in Europe, Switzerland is facing a steep rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, unlike others, hasn’t responded with new restrictive measures. Analysts say it doesn't want to stir up more opposition to its anti-COVID-19 policies, which face a crucial test at the ballot box this weekend as critics have grown increasingly loud.

FILE - Protesters gather for a demonstration march against civil restrictions and the COVID-19 vaccine, in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 9, 2021. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Protesters gather for a demonstration march against civil restrictions and the COVID-19 vaccine, in Geneva, Switzerland, Oct. 9, 2021. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via AP, File) FILE - A policewoman and policeman, center, ride a ski lift as they patrol on the slopes and in alpine restaurants specifically, to check the application of sanitary measures during the coronavirus disease COVID-19 outbreak, in the alpine resort of Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, Dec. 19, 2020. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a 'COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - A policewoman and policeman, center, ride a ski lift as they patrol on the slopes and in alpine restaurants specifically, to check the application of sanitary measures during the coronavirus disease COVID-19 outbreak, in the alpine resort of Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland, Dec. 19, 2020. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a 'COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP, File)

On Sunday, as part of the country’s regular referendums, Swiss voters will cast ballots about the so-called “COVID-19 law” that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs (dollars) in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. The law has also imposed the use of a special COVID certificate that lets only people who have been vaccinated, recovered, or tested negative attend public events and gatherings.

Austrians enjoy final day before impending lockdown

  Austrians enjoy final day before impending lockdown VIENNA (AP) — Austrians were enjoying a last day out in coffeehouses and at Christmas markets Sunday before the government imposes a nationwide lockdown to combat a growing fourth wave of coronavirus infections. The measures, which take effect Monday and are expected to last for a maximum of 20 days but will be reevaluated after 10, require people to stay home apart from basic reasons like getting groceries, going to the doctor and exercising. © Provided by Associated Press People sit at an outdoor cafe on a street decorated with Christmas lights in Vienna, Austria, Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.

FILE - Medical worker treats a patient with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit at the hospital © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Medical worker treats a patient with Covid-19 in the intensive care unit at the hospital "Reseau hospitalier neuchatelois (RHNe)" Pourtales site during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Neuchatel, Switzerland, November 5, 2020. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP, File)

If the Swiss give a thumbs-up, the government may well ratchet up its anti-COVID efforts.

Fact check: Image shows 1991 protest in Moscow, not anti-lockdown demonstration in Vienna

  Fact check: Image shows 1991 protest in Moscow, not anti-lockdown demonstration in Vienna An image of a 1991 gathering in Moscow has been misrepresented on social media as a protest in Vienna against COVID-19 restrictions.When Austria, announced on Nov. 19 that it would impose a nationwide lockdown and mandate COVID-19 vaccinations to prevent a fifth wave of the pandemic, a photo of a large outdoor gathering went viral on Facebook.

The vote offers a relatively rare bellwether of public opinion specifically on the issue of government policy to fight the coronavirus in Europe, the global epicenter of the pandemic. The continent enjoys relatively high rates of vaccination compared with countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, but has been nearly alone in facing a surge in cases in recent weeks.

Polls suggest a solid majority of Swiss will approve the measure, which is already in effect and the rejection of which would end the restrictions — as well as the payouts. But in recent weeks, opponents have raised heaps of cash for their campaign and drawn support from abroad, including a visit from American anti-vaccination campaigner Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to a rally in the capital, Bern, this month.

Swiss weekly NZZ am Sonntag reported that campaigners have sent hundreds of petitions to government offices around the country alleging that the language in the referendum question is vague and makes no mention of the “COVID certificate” that affords access to places like restaurants and sporting events.

Austria Plans to Make COVID Vaccines Mandatory Next Year as Nation Enters Fourth Lockdown

  Austria Plans to Make COVID Vaccines Mandatory Next Year as Nation Enters Fourth Lockdown Of Austria's population of 8.9 million people, roughly 66 percent are vaccinated as a smaller but expressive minority of residents refuse to get the shots. The new lockdown restrictions allow people to leave their homes only for specific reasons like grocery shopping and exercising. Though parents were asked to keep their children home when possible, kindergartens and schools are remaining open, according to AP.

On Tuesday, Swiss health authorities warned of a rising “fifth wave” in the rich Alpine country, where vaccination rates are roughly in line with those in hard-hit Austria and Germany — at about two-thirds of the population. Infection rates have soared in recent weeks. The seven-day average case count in Switzerland shot up to more than 5,200 per day from mid-October to mid-November, a more than five-fold increase — with an upward curve like those in neighboring Germany and Austria.

Austria has responded with a much-ballyhooed lockdown, and Germany — which is forming a new government as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s tenure nears its end — has taken some steps like requiring workers to provide their employers with proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test set to take effect next week.

The Swiss Federal Council, the seven-member executive branch, went out of its way on Wednesday to say: “It’s not the time to decree a tightening of measures nationwide,” while opting for a region-by-region approach and calling on citizens to act responsibly through mask-wearing, physical distancing, and proper airing of indoor areas.

Swiss vote on ending restrictions amid Covid surge

  Swiss vote on ending restrictions amid Covid surge Sunday's referendum is held in a country with one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe. Now, Covid-19 infections are rising exponentially, with case numbers rising by 40% to 50% each week. So is the health minister planning new restrictions, like neighbouring Germany, or even making vaccination mandatory, like Austria?Not a bit of it. In fact, on Sunday, Switzerland votes on getting rid of some Covid restrictions altogether.

FILE - Activists light almost 9,200 candles to commemorate the people who have died of the coronavirus in Switzerland, Feb. 21, 2021, on the Bundesplatz, in front of the Federal Palace in Bern, Switzerland. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Peter Schneider/Keystone via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Activists light almost 9,200 candles to commemorate the people who have died of the coronavirus in Switzerland, Feb. 21, 2021, on the Bundesplatz, in front of the Federal Palace in Bern, Switzerland. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Peter Schneider/Keystone via AP, File)

That's even though the council admitted in a statement that cases — particularly among the young — are rising and “the number of daily infections has reached a record for the year and the exponential rise is continuing.” Hospitalizations — notably among the elderly — are rising too, it said, but not as fast.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has insisted his government hasn’t tightened restrictions because COVID-19 patients still make up only a small percentage of people in intensive-care units.

FILE - A pupil wearing a protective mask arrives at a primary school Etablissement Primaire de l'ecole vaudoise, in Morges, Switzerland, 11 May 2020. Classroom teaching at primary and lower secondary schools will again be permitted. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - A pupil wearing a protective mask arrives at a primary school Etablissement Primaire de l'ecole vaudoise, in Morges, Switzerland, 11 May 2020. Classroom teaching at primary and lower secondary schools will again be permitted. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP, File)

“But we also know that the number of hospitalizations lags behind the number of infections,” said Pascal Sciarini, a political scientist at the University of Geneva. “One can imagine that if Switzerland didn’t have this particular event — the vote on Sunday — we’d already be preparing (the) next steps.”

Switzerland to vote on whether to keep Covid restrictions as cases surge

  Switzerland to vote on whether to keep Covid restrictions as cases surge People in Switzerland will vote on Sunday on the government's health measures against Covid-19, in the wake of a large increase in new cases this month. © Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images A protester attends a rally against coronavirus measures, the Covid-19 health pass and vaccination in Geneva on October 9, 2021. Voters will have their say on the modifications of a previous Covid law, which were adopted by the Swiss Parliament last March.

FILE - People celebrate at the MAD (Moulin a Danse) night club on the first evening after COVID-19 measures were eased enabling the reopening of discotheques at full capacity and without mask upon presentation of COVID-19 certificates in Lausanne, Switzerland, early Saturday, June 26, 2021. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - People celebrate at the MAD (Moulin a Danse) night club on the first evening after COVID-19 measures were eased enabling the reopening of discotheques at full capacity and without mask upon presentation of COVID-19 certificates in Lausanne, Switzerland, early Saturday, June 26, 2021. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP, File)

The Swiss council may simply be holding its breath through the weekend, he suggested.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if as early as next week, the tone changes,” Scarini said. “It’s starting to budge … the Federal Council is surely going to wait until after the referendum.”

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Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

FILE - People demonstrate during the © Provided by Associated Press FILE - People demonstrate during the "Stiller Protest" (silent protest) association march to protest against anti-COVID measures, in Neuchatel, Switzerland, May 22, 2021. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Valentin Flauraud/Keystone via AP, File) FILE - Students wearing face masks after they have been checked at the entrance of an auditorium for a validated Covid Certificate during a lecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 21, 2021. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP, File) © Provided by Associated Press FILE - Students wearing face masks after they have been checked at the entrance of an auditorium for a validated Covid Certificate during a lecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, in Lausanne, Switzerland, September 21, 2021. Switzerland is facing an exponential rise in coronavirus cases. But its federal government, hasn't responded with new lockdown measures. Experts say that's because the government's anti-COVID policies face a crucial test at the ballot box. On Sunday Nov. 28, 2021, Swiss voters will cast ballots on a ‚COVID-19 law' that has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic. (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP, File)

Austrian lockdown extended through Dec 11 as planned .
BERLIN (AP) — Austria's lockdown has officially been extended until Dec. 11 as planned amid signs that the measures are helping to bring down a sky-high coronavirus infection rate. A parliamentary committee signed off Tuesday on the extension of the country's fourth national lockdown of the pandemic, which started on Nov. 22, the Austria Press Agency reported. That was necessary because some lockdown measures can only be ordered for 10 days at a time. © Provided by Associated Press Virus Outbreak Austria There is one significant change: essential shops that so far were allowed to open until 9 p.m. will have to close by 7 p.m. starting Thursday.

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