Switzerland to hold referendum on COVID restrictions

Switzerland to hold referendum on COVID restrictions
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Anti-lockdown campaigners in Switzerland have reached enough signatures on a petition to trigger a referendum over ending the country's coronavirus restrictions.

The group, known as Freunden der Verfassung or in English, Friends of the Constitution, filed a petition with Switzerland's federal chancellery that has been signed some 90,000 times.

Under Swiss law, a petition backed by 50,000 signatures triggers a national referendum on the issue. The Swiss are well-known for their direct democracy, where citizens over the age of 18 are able to vote on how the country is run. Popular votes can be held up to four times a year.

Opponents of Switzerland's lockdown efforts argue that legislation passed by the government in September 2020 has gone too far and is "dangerous, unethical and unnecessary," according to EuroNews.

In December 2020 the government declared its intent to shut restaurants, bars, sports facilities and cultural institutions until the end of February.

Switzerland has seen a total of just under 500,000 cases of COVID-19, and has reported 8,728 deaths related to the outbreak.

Lockdown critics, like Friends of the Constitution spokesperson Christoph Pfluger, say that the government's response is “disproportionate” and “demonstrably ineffective.” They believe that the government already has the ability to manage the situation by federal decree, without additionally granting itself emergency powers.

“People and companies who have been pushed to the brink by the irresponsible dictates of the Federal Council must be helped,” Friends of the Constitution said in a statement.

The referendum vote is expected to take place in June 2021 or later, which would be at least nine months after the country's restrictions were first enacted.

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