Swiss same-sex marriages to begin in July
Same-sex couples will legally be able to wed in Switzerland beginning on July 1, 2022, according to The Associated Press.Switzerland's Federal Council also said that the government will recognize same-sex couples' marriages outside of Switzerland beginning on Jan. 1 instead of treating them as "civil partnerships," the AP reports. Couples who are already in civil partnerships reportedly will be permitted to remain in them if they so choose. Switzerland is one of the only countries in Western Europe that does not currently acknowledge same-sex marriages, the AP noted.
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset is in a bit of bind. © Getty Images Anti-vaccination protesters have taken to the streets of Bern ahead of the vote
With just under two-thirds of the population fully vaccinated, the Swiss have 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.
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.
From the start of the pandemic the Swiss government has performed a tricky balancing act, trying to introduce measures to control the spread of Covid, while still staying true to Switzerland's system of direct democracy, in which the government has little formal power and the people have the final say. © Swiss Yes campaign Yes-campaign posters urge the Swiss not to forget to vote to back the Covid law
Switzerland's lockdowns were never as strict as its neighbours. People were allowed outside for exercise whenever they wanted and the schools only closed for a few weeks.
But last summer, with cases falling dramatically, Switzerland didn't have a celebratory, UK-style "freedom" day either.
Instead, a Covid certificate was introduced with proof of vaccination, negative test, or immunity through having had the virus. In September it became obligatory to enter bars, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, museums, sporting events, and face-to-face university classes.
Europe's Christmas markets warily open as COVID cases rise
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — The holiday tree is towering over the main square in this central German city, the chestnuts and sugared almonds are roasted, and kids are clambering aboard the merry-go-round just like they did before the pandemic. But a surge in coronavirus infections has left an uneasy feeling hanging over Frankfurt's Christmas market. To savor a mug of mulled wine — a pleasurable rite of winter in pre-pandemic times — masked customers must pass through a one-way entrance to a fenced-off wine hut, stopping at the hand sanitizer station.
© Provided by BBC News
But not everyone agrees.
Vaccination has long been a sensitive issue here, especially in German-speaking Switzerland. A belief that natural immunity is best led to a drop in childhood measles vaccinations that sparked a surge in measles cases across Europe.
Meanwhile, in the alpine communities, a historic pride in their own independence rooted, some say, in the time when the mountain villages were cut off from the world each winter, means there is resistance to the government issuing orders. © BBC
And so, when the certificate was introduced and Covid tests stopped being free, life for the unvaccinated became difficult and even going out for a beer was suddenly expensive.
The government hoped the measures would encourage people to get vaccinated. Instead, many took to the streets and others gathered enough signatures to challenge the Covid certificate in Sunday's referendum.
Europe's COVID-19 surge highlights warnings for US
Experts say a COVID-19 surge in Europe serves as a warning to the United States about the continued threat of the virus, even as many are ready to move past the pandemic era.Despite the European Union having a higher vaccination level than the U.S., parts of Europe saw a record number of coronavirus infections on Wednesday.The spike in cases has prompted Austria to reimpose a lockdown, while Belgium has moved to righten rules including a mask mandate amid its own surge, sparking protests.Tough measures like a lockdown, or anything like it, are not expected in the United States, where there is no appetite among the public and the Biden administration has dismissed the idea.
© Reuters No campaigners this week urged voters to reject the Covid laws
For weeks there have been demonstrations. Some have turned violent, with police using water cannons and rubber bullets against protesters trying to storm parliament.
At a rally in Bern this month, thousands turned out to hear speakers, including renowned anti-vaxxer Robert Kennedy Jr, who hailed Switzerland as Europe's last great hope against what he claimed were sinister powers forcing people to get vaccinated, while at the same time, via the Covid certificate, introducing a draconian mass surveillance system. © BBC Robert F Kennedy Jr has called on voters to challenge the Swiss anti-Covid measures
The crowd, huddled together, all mask-less, roared their approval.
Some wore the insignia of the far right, others the far left. Health minister Alain Berset was depicted, complete with red horns, as the devil.
- How fast is worldwide progress?
Among the crowds was part-time student Manuela. She refuses to get vaccinated because, she says, she is "a healthy young woman" for whom getting the virus poses little risk.
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.
© Provided by BBC News
In fact, the World Health Organization advises that, while young people are less likely to be hospitalised with Covid-19, they are still susceptible to infection, and with it the risk of serious and long term health consequences.
Prepare the hospitals
And so, for fear of increasing opposition to the Covid certificate, the health minister dare not introduce any new restrictions ahead of Sunday's crucial vote.
Mr Berset and his science taskforce are convinced Switzerland needs infection control measures during this increasingly bleak Covid winter. A vote to abolish the certificate, they believe, could be a huge risk, especially as booster vaccinations have scarcely begun. © BBC
Instead, as cases rise, the government has advised hospitals to increase their intensive care capacity. This has brought a bitter laugh from Switzerland's nurses, who point out that extra beds won't help when there aren't enough staff to look after the patients in them.
It's estimated 10% of Swiss nurses and care workers have left the profession since the start of the pandemic.
"Everywhere we have too few staff," says Michèle Giroud, a nurse who's also president of the Swiss Federation of Nurse Anaesthetists. "We are constantly working without breaks, doing overtime, extra shifts. A third of us have burn-out symptoms: anxiety or insomnia."
New virus variant casts pall, shocks experts in South Africa
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The overcast, drizzly skies match the somber mood at the Tshwane University of Technology, a hot spot in South Africa’s latest surge of COVID-19 cases, apparently driven by the new omicron variant that is leading countries around the world to impose new restrictions. After several students tested positive, the university postponed some exams, and officials in the larger metropolitan area of Tshwane, which includes the capital of Pretoria, are pushing vaccinations, especially among younger adults who have been slow to get the shots. At TUT, as the university is known, few students wanted to speak about the new variant that has cast a pall.
But unlike in other European countries going through similar health sector shortages, Swiss nurses have the power to change things. They have gathered the signatures for a nationwide referendum demanding more investment and better working conditions.
On Sunday, Swiss voters will decide on that too.
Opinion polls suggest the pandemic has focused voters' minds on how important their health workers are - almost 70% say they will vote yes to the nurses' demands.
On the Covid certificate, things are a little tighter, but around 60% of voters look set to back keeping the certificate, and with it the restrictions. © BBC
So, once Sunday's votes are counted, the health minister will return to the grim business of counting the rising Covid cases, and he is likely to start thinking about what new restrictions might be necessary. He may also have to count out around CHF8bn (£6bn) for Switzerland's nurses.
But the anger, fear, and social division born of the pandemic cannot be solved by a referendum or two, and the demonstrations are sure to continue, in Switzerland and across Europe.
Swiss Post launches first NFT stamp .
On November 25, 2021, the Krypto stamps of Swiss Post went to the sale. Only a few hours after start of sales were the collectibles already sold out. © Provided by finanzen.net Daniel Roland / AFP / Getty Images • Swiss Post brings NTF stamps to the market • The stamps are sold out a few hours after start of sales • NFT stamp is a collector's piece NFT stamps of the Swiss Post Every year, Swiss Post publishes about 50 new stamps, explains the company in a press release.