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GENEVA

UPDATE: Swiss cantons of Fribourg, Neuchâtel to implement new coronavirus restrictions

Neuchâtel and Fribourg join Geneva and several other cantons in Switzerland in mandating tougher measures to fight the spread of Covid-19.

UPDATE: Swiss cantons of Fribourg, Neuchâtel to implement new coronavirus restrictions
A sad sight: a number of cantons are shutting down bars and restaurants. Photo by AFP

Fribourg and Neuchâtel have become the latest Swiss cantons implement stricter lockdown measures than those adopted at a federal level. 

Here's what you need to know. 

Fribourg

From 11pm on Wednesday, November 4th, Fribourg will put in place a strict range of new coronavirus measures. 

Bars, restaurants and cafes will be forced to close, as will cinemas, theatres, museums, gyms, fitness centres and swimming pools. 

Cantonal authorities stressed that the measures were necessary to control the pandemic. 

Fribourg has become one of the hardest hit cantons in Switzerland. 

Neuchâtel

Among the new rules will be the closure of all bars and restaurants, along with cinemas, concert halls, theatres, museums, fitness, and wellness centres, erotic salons, swimming pools, bowling alleys and other game rooms. Contact sports are prohibited and non-contact sports activities are limited to five people.

Religious ceremonies are also prohibited, except for funerals.

The measures will go into effect on Wednesday at 11 pm until at least until November 22nd.

“Demonstrations and gatherings, public or private, including within the family circle, both indoors and outdoors, involving more than five people are prohibited. Households with more than five people are not affected by this measure”, the canton said.

Neuchâtel’s measures follow a ‘semi-confinement’ implemented in Geneva on November 2nd, which includes shutting down all bars, restaurants, non-essential shops, as well as leisure establishments like cinemas, museums, libraries and pools.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Geneva and other Swiss cantons introduce tighter coronavirus restrictions 

Similar measures are also in force in Jura, where all bars, restaurants, museums, theatres, cinemas, and libraries in the canton will remain closed until November 15th. 

Other cantons are expected to implement similar measures in the coming days, including Vaud, which will release its list of restrictions on Wednesday.

The measures go beyond those mandated by the Federal Council on October 29th on the national level.

Cantons can’t revoke any of the federal measures but they can add their own, more restrictive ones.
 

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GENEVA

‘Witch hunt’: Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The Swiss canton of Geneva has banned baptisms in the waters of Lake Geneva organised by evangelical churches -- a decision they branded a "witch hunt".

'Witch hunt': Lake Geneva baptism ban infuriates evangelicals

The canton — comprising the city of Geneva and its hinterland that forms the western end of the lake — took the step on July 8, amid a backdrop of debates around secularism.

“It’s an abuse of authority,” Jean-Francois Bussy, president of the Evangelical Federation of the neighbouring canton of Vaud, told AFP.

Baptisms in Lake Geneva are permitted in Vaud, which covers the rest of the lake’s northern shore.

“We have had no complaints in the canton of Vaud, which is much more liberal at this level than Geneva, which in my opinion applies fundamentalist secularism and a quite detestable witch hunt,” said Bussy, who heads the Vaud branch of the Swiss Evangelical Network in French-speaking western Switzerland that has around 40,000 members.

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Among the Swiss confederation’s 26 cantons, Geneva and Neuchatel are the only two secular ones.

The separation of church and state has been enshrined in Geneva law for more than a century.

Geneva is nevertheless famous for having welcomed the French theologian Jean Calvin in 1536, who made the city a bastion of the Protestant Reformation, and whose statue stands against the old town’s city walls.

“Baptism is a religious service”, said the Geneva authorities, while the canton “has established the principle whereby religious events take place in private”, therefore excluding the shores and public beaches of Lake Geneva.

“Only organisations permitted to have relations with the state can request authorisation for a public religious event” — and the two evangelical parishes concerned are not among them, the authorities added.

To get on that list, organisations must undertake to exclude acts of physical or psychological violence, spiritual abuse as well as discrimination on the basis of ethnic or national origin and sexual or gender identity.

According to Bussy, “it is not very clear what motivates the cantonal authority to ban events like this which do not contravene public order”, constituting a “peaceful example of a laudable religious practice”.

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