Switzerland has given vaccine passports the green light after a referendum on public events.
Swiss voters approved a policy which is already in place by a clear margin, with final results showing 62% voting in favour.
It means people who want to attend large gathering will have to prove that they have either been vaccinated against Covid-19, have recently tested negative or recovered from the virus.
Turnout on Sunday was 65.7% – an unusually high figure in a country that holds referendums several times a year and offers a relatively rare insight into public opinion on the controversial issue.
Of the country’s 26 states, only two — Schwyz and Appenzell Innerrhoden, both conservative rural regions in eastern Switzerland — voted against the legislation.
Josef Ender, a spokesman for one of the groups that opposed it, told SRF public radio ‘it was important that the Swiss population could form an opinion on the tightening of the Covid law.’
He maintained that the legislation violates parts of the country’s constitution.
But voters backed the country’s ‘Covid-19 law’ en masse – in a move which has unlocked billions of Swiss francs in aid for workers and businesses hit by the pandemic.
It comes as Switzerland, like many other European nations, battles a surge in cases.
The Swiss federal government has so far not responded with new restrictions.
But experts suggested ministers were anxious not to stir up more opposition to coronavirus policies before Sunday’s vote – and said the government could not ratchet up its anti-Covid efforts.
Rejection of the legislation would have ended the use of Covid passports, as well as the additional funding.
And in a country where referendums take place every few months in a climate of civility and measured debate, the soaring tensions around the vote shocked many.
Police have upped security around several politicians who have faced a flood of insults and even death threats.
They also fenced off the seat of government and parliament in Bern, in anticipation of protests at the results.
Observers warned that Sunday’s vote could exacerbate tensions, and even spark a violent backlash from the losing side.
On Tuesday, Swiss health authorities warned of a rising ‘fifth wave’ in the rich country, where low vaccination rates are roughly in line with those of its hard-hit neighbours Austria and Germany, at about two-thirds of the population.
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.
Overall, Switzerland – a country of less than 9 million people – has confirmed less than 1 million cases and around 11,500 deaths.
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