Swiss referendum gives government powers in event of pandemic

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Voters backed a proposal to develop a national pandemic emergency plan and a nationwide act of solidarity after several schools were evacuated over scares

A Swiss referendum will give the government more powers in the event of a pandemic in the country, after the result of a vote on a proposal to empower it gained more than three-quarters of the votes.

Swiss voters backed a proposal to develop a national pandemic emergency plan and a nationwide act of solidarity after several schools were evacuated over scares during the past few years.

In 2010, a 23-year-old student was shot and killed by a gunman in Bern, and in 2013 there were threats against classes at a school in the Zurich suburbs.

Katrin Göring-Eckardt, a senior member of the government, called the vote a “very important decision”, but said there was a danger it could “create a protectionist mentality and problems of communication between different government departments”.

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“Our most important task is to act with intelligence and efficiency in the best circumstances, not to wait for the media [to spread the word],” she told public radio SRF.

Under the change, the government would be able to coordinate with other ministries and universities, the higher education authority and research centres such as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich).

The proposal says that this “coordinated triage could help the federal government meet the threat of a global pandemic”.

Switzerland’s public broadcaster, SRF, said the new measures were modeled on proposals from the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology welcomed the new measures, which it said would help improve the university’s security.

It said the new rules would allow it to purchase more state-of-the-art protective equipment and would help defend campuses against asymmetric attacks.

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