EXPLAINED: Why certain parts of Switzerland are to vote on coronavirus measures

In addition to two national initiatives, voters in three German-speaking cantons will decide on local issues driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.

EXPLAINED: Why certain parts of Switzerland are to vote on coronavirus measures
There will be several issues to be voted on cantonal level. Photo by AFP


In Basel-Country, citizens will vote on a proposal to reduce the rents for businesses severely affected by the pandemic by one-third. Parliament approved the law by 53 votes to 34. 

Concretely, the law provides that the canton covers a third of the rent of the businesses if the owners renounce a third of the rental income.

This way, tenants of commercial premises will have only one-third of the rent to pay.

This so-called ‘three-thirds model’ is already applied in Basel-City. The contributions to the payment of rent are valid retroactively for the months of April, May and June of this year. 

The new law sets the maximum contribution per business at 3,000 francs per month. The total cost for the canton is estimated at 10 million francs.

St. Gallen

Voters will cast their ballots on the cantonal loan program to financially support small and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic.

The urgent government decree passed in April was converted into law in May. The law is subject to a compulsory referendum, as the total cost of the program could reach 50 million francs.

The law supplements the financial support from the federal government. The loan appraisal will be carried out by the banks and controls are provided to prevent abuse and limit the risk that the loans cannot be repaid.

Only companies whose turnover does not exceed 10 million francs annually can benefit from this aid.

On the basis of the requests already filed or pending, the canton expects that the total of loans should reach 3 to 3.5 million francs — significantly less than the maximum amount provided for by law. Parliament approved the law by 104 votes to 5.


In Uri, voters will decide on adding an article to the constitution giving the government the right to issue urgent decrees in the event of a crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic showed that there are emergencies in which swift government action is needed.

However, unlike most cantons, Uri currently has no constitutional basis for the government to act urgently without having to go through ordinary legislative procedure. In parliament, the new constitutional article was approved by 54 votes to 3.

Nationwide initiatives

On the same day, the Swiss will vote on two issues: ‘The Responsible Business Initiative’ and initative ‘For a ban on financing war material manufacturers’

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What’s at stake in Switzerland's November referendums? 

The first one seeks to decide whether Swiss companies are expected to uphold human rights and comply with environmental standards, not just in Switzerland but also when doing business abroad.

The second wants to ban the financing of all arms manufacture in Switzerland, as well as prohibit loans to arms manufacturers, making it illegal to hold shares in such companies or to invest in funds that contain their shares.





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How unvaccinated people can use France’s health passport

A health passport is now required to access a range of venues in France including bars, cafés, tourist sites and long-distance travel. For those who are not yet fully vaccinated, accessing the passport is still possible, but more complicated. Here's how it works.

How unvaccinated people can use France's health passport
Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt/AFP

The French government has been clear that part of the intention of the pass sanitaire (health passport) is to push people into being vaccinated and as such daily life in France is now more complicated for those who are not vaccinated.

But for those who either cannot be vaccinated or have not yet completed the full vaccination course, it is still possible to access the passport.

EXPLAINED When and where you need the French health passport


The health passport requires one of three things; proof of fully vaccinated status, proof of a recent negative Covid test or proof of recent recovery from Covid.

‘Fully vaccinated’ here means having a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca – including Covishield – or Johnson & Johnson) so those who received a Sinopharm or Sputnik vaccine do not count as ‘vaccinated’ under French rules. You also need to be at least seven days post your final dose of the vaccine.

Most people have two doses of the vaccine, but ‘fully vaccinated’ can also mean a single dose of Johnson & Johnson, a single vaccine dose if you have previously had Covid or three doses if you are severely immunosuppressed.

Those vaccinated outside France may need to convert their certificates to make sure they are compatible with the French app – click HERE if you were vaccinated in the UK or HERE if you were vaccinated in the USA.

Covid recovery

If you have recently recovered from Covid you will need a positive Covid test that is no more than six months old. If you did not have a test while you were ill, or had Covid more than six months ago, you cannot use this route.

Recent negative test

If you are going for the testing option, there are some stipulations;

  • The test must be no more than 72 hours old (expanded from 48 hours initially) so if you intend to rely on testing you will need regular tests
  • The test must be taken in France, the app does not recognise foreign test certificates
  • The test can be either a PCR or antigen test. Home-testing kits can be used, but only – the health minister says – if done under the supervision of a pharmacist or medical professional (so it seems that you may as well get the pharmacist to do the test).

How to get a test

Some good news for those travelling from the UK, France’s testing system is much less chaotic and considerably less expensive than the UK’s and tests are relatively easy to access.

You can find tests at either medical testing labs, pharmacies or pop-up testing centres – either a PCR or an antigen test works with the health passport.

Medical labs require advance booking but most pharmacies advertise tests sans rendez-vous (without appointment) and pop-up testing centres (which are often just a gazebo on a street corner) operate on a walk-in basis.

Almost all pharmacies offer tests and even quite small French towns generally have at least one pharmacy, and you can also book tests online either via the medical app Doctolib or at

READ ALSO Vital French vocab to get a Covid test

Results for PCR tests are sent out later via email or SMS (usually within 24 hours) while for antigen tests they are generally given on the spot, although some pharmacies send them via SMS, this should not take more than 30 minutes.

How much?

At present all tests are free for residents of France, but from September ‘convenience tests’ for the unvaccinated will need to be paid for. Tests for any reason for vaccinated residents of France will continue to be free, and tests for those with symptoms or who are contact cases will be free for all residents.

Tourists and visitors to France need to pay for their tests.

Costs are capped by the French government at;

PCR – €49

Antigen – €29

What about children?

Children under the age of 12 are exempt from the health pass requirement.

Those aged between 12 and 18 are required to use it, but have a grace period until September 30th to allow them time to get vaccinated, after that they will need to show a health pass to access relevant venues.

France, along with quite a few other European countries, is currently vaccinating all over 12s, but if you are travelling from October from a country where the vaccine is not available to under 18s, then your children will need a test to access the health pass.