Over the weekend the owners of a family-run restaurant were taken into police custody for defiantly operating their restaurant in contravention of Switzerland’s Covid rules, reported 20 Minutes.
On Saturday 30 October 2021, the police arrested the operators of the Walliserkanne restaurant in Zermatt. Three family members, a mother, father and son were arrested on Saturday morning and taken into custody.
The restaurant’s website says: we welcome everyone, also without certificate. The management has refused to check whether their diners have valid Covid certificates since the legal requirement was introduced on 13 September 2021.
In mid-September, in a video interview with 20 Minutes, one of the restaurant’s bosses said that they had only been checked once by the police and that they would continue to let anyone enter their bar and restaurant without a certificate. After several violations a criminal investigation was initiated.
The arrest on Saturday followed repeated defiance of police requests. On Friday, the police closed the restaurant at the behest of the cantonal government because the operator was breaking the law by not checking Covid certificates, reported the Police. The judiciary and police are required to ensure the population complies with laws made by Switzerland’s democratically elected parliament.
Later in the day, ignoring the closure order, the restaurant’s boss reopened the establishment. In response, the police closed it again and had large concrete blocks placed in front of the building. However, the manager of the restaurant opened it again on Saturday morning announcing with a microphone that the restaurant was open for business. In exasperation, the police arrested the man and his parents and placed them in custody. The arrest was resisted and resulted in injury, according to various media reports.
The brothers who manage the restaurant at the centre of the conflict have been open about their anti-Covid beliefs, reported the newspaper Blick. They have also been outspoken out on a German website that posts content on conspiracy theories. In an interview on the site, one of them says that there is no pandemic, there is no epidemic and that only 0.001% of the world’s population has died from the disease, a percentage that infers 79,000 deaths. Number crunchers at The Economist estimate that close to 17 million (0.22% of the global population) have died from Covid-19, a figure based on excess deaths rather than the official count of 5 million, which relies on patchy testing.
In the same interview, the other brother makes the claim that Switzerland’s democratically elected government is breaking laws by creating them. Under Switzerland’s constitution, legislation enacted by parliament cannot be declared invalid on the grounds that it is unconstitutional, unless it contravenes international law.
Over the weekend, the arrest became a rallying point for hundreds of protesters, including members of the Freiheitstrychler (cowbell ringers) and Mass-Voll groups, who assembled outside the restaurant. These groups have been present at numerous anti-Covid protests across Switzerland.
Anyone can get a Covid certificate in Switzerland either by showing proof of prior infection, proof of vaccination, which is free, or proof of a recent negative test, which was free until 10 October 2021 but is now chargeable.
According to a survey by RTS published last week, 61% of Switzerland’s population are in favour of Covid certificates. However, a vocal portion of those against them has been actively protesting across the country, describing the certificates as discriminatory.
The situation has placed the government in a difficult position where it is unable to simultaneously please those who favour the certificates and those who do not.
On 28 November 2021, the Swiss population will vote in a referendum on Switzerland’s recent Covid laws1. The latest polls suggest a majority of voters support them. The government will be hoping that Switzerland’s system of direct democracy, which gives voters the final word on laws passed by parliament, brings some closure to the discord.
1In September 2020, parliament passed a package of Covid-19 laws. These laws were challenged by a referendum on 13 June 2021 and accepted by 60% of voters. On March 2021, parliament passed additional Covid-19 laws, which included laws to introduce Covid certificates. The vote on 28 November 2021 aims to overturn the additional March 2021 Covid-19 laws.