We see serious problems with the use of certificates in Switzerland.
1. The certificates do not provide effective protection, but only a false sense of security.
Not only is it possible to use a forged certificate but vaccinated and recovered persons can also be infectious and thus contagious. At the same time, people lull themselves into a false sense of security, take higher risks and measures such as keeping their distance or wearing masks are no longer implemented. The proven Swiss-cheese corona model loses important slices in pandemic control. Asymptomatically ill people can infect fellow human beings at a supposedly “safe” 3G event, who in turn can become seriously ill or die and of course infect other people. Placebos are the wrong medicine in a pandemic. We fear that the certificate will worsen the pandemic.
Recent data also suggest that vaccination has little effect on the spread of the virus. Even for the current validity periods of the certificates, we do not have sufficient scientific justification.
2. Certificates reinforce social polarization and create illusory freedom.
Certificates exclude people who cannot be vaccinated or who have no identity papers. This also affects many children. To discriminate against people who cannot be vaccinated is unfair and contradicts Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition. Frequent testing – to attend “3G” events – is ultimately burdensome and can be financially ruinous. The pressure created by certificates is the wrong approach and only leads to more resistance among hesitant people and to the division of society. The certificate requirement only hardens the fronts. Instead of gaining trust in our democracy, the community is (further) divided.
3. There is currently no general obligation in Switzerland to carry an ID card.
Certificates normalize constant identification in public spaces. Until now, identification was an exception for good reason. This is undermined by the certificate. We want to remain a free society in which anonymity remains the default and identification is the exception. Even in the past, many controversial security laws in Switzerland and abroad initially were temporary but eventually became permanent.
4. Controls are often ineffective.
The inspectors are not very motivated to argue with the uncertified. Effectively, we see that in some places the controls are practically “voluntary”, i.e., whoever wants shows a certificate or comes again later, once there is no more control. Overall, certificates allow responsibility to be shifted downward, rather than establishing clear responsibilities at the national level – appropriate to a global emergency. The effect is to create highly inconsistent and poorly justified rules, which then also undermine effective enforcement of measures. Certificate controls are better suited to diffuse responsibility than to control viruses.
5. Validation of certificates and COVID tests only to obtain short-lived certificates causes high societal costs for a short-term effect.
The money and political capital could be used more efficiently elsewhere. The focus on certificates thus stands in the way of more permanent pandemic management solutions.
We propose to overcome the pandemic together through political transparency. We want to restore people’s trust in the community, the state, and science, instead of dividing society by using certificates as proof of health. As alternatives to certificates, we propose:
6. The pandemic should primarily be countered with measures that are socially acceptable in the long term.
For example, improvements in ventilation in classrooms and public transport have rarely been implemented in Switzerland to date. Air quality checks in certain SBB trains show unacceptably high CO2 levels suggesting poor ventilation. Large events or discotheques, which according to the FOPH’s own assessment, represent a high risk, are to be restricted if the pandemic situation worsens. Businesses must be fully compensated for the loss of income. When implementing concrete measures, care must be taken to strike a balance between health protection, the restriction of freedoms, and economic interests.
7. Trust in vaccinations also comes from transparency.
It is difficult to understand why a large Swiss organization in the field of medicine is not subject to Swiss law. Here, Switzerland could convince some hesitant individuals, e.g., by lifting the diplomatic immunity of the GAVI Alliance. If an organization serves people, it does not need diplomatic immunity. Immunity is needed against viruses.
8. Information spreads through a free press.
Free press requires government transparency and not bureaucrats, researchers and medical staff that remains silent out of fear. Switzerland urgently needs more effective protection for whistleblowers in its constitution. According to the publicity law (BGÖ), authorities are also required to apply the principle of publicity instead of the previous principle of secrecy. This happens too rarely. Currently, important crisis-relevant documents and data have to be “extracted” from the government with access requests and often arbitration proceedings.
1. We are in favor of amending the law – we are not against those articles in the amendment that have nothing to do with the use of certificates as proof of health (domestically).
We are in favor of government support for people who are particularly hard hit. Due to the urgent nature of the Covid law, it is possible to reintroduce uncontested amendments to the Covid law as early as December 2021.
2. The Swiss Covid certificate app is technologically sound.
It appears to meet minimum technical requirements for usability, basic source openness, and correct certificate verification. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement – for example, the more privacy-friendly “Light” certificate is not shown by default. There is also a single point of failure for offline capability, as we depend on the EU infrastructure. It is thus possible to disable the certificate-restricted lifestyle in Switzerland either deliberately or through an error. It is also easily possible with the Covid certificate app, the one intended to store one’s own certificates (for oneself and e.g. the family), to also perform certificate checks in a misappropriation. In this way, a restaurant owner can systematically store all the certificates of his or her customers on a permanent basis. It is thus possible for individuals without special expertise to create large data collections of certificates.
3. Certificates are required from abroad, e.g., when entering the country.
Switzerland, especially as a non-EU member, has no direct influence on such requirements. We, therefore, propose not the complete abolition of certificates, but only the prohibition of the domestic use of certificates. Even in case of a “NO” to the Covid law, the certificate can still be used for travel purposes until the end of March. That leaves is more than enough time to introduce a solution for travel only – as originally promised. For example, Spain and England do not have a domestic certificate requirement but issue certificates for international travel. In addition, it should be noted that not all EU countries require the Covid certificate for entry (e.g., Portugal and Sweden do not), and, for example, US citizens have the possibility to enter the EU and Switzerland. This shows that other solutions are possible. Further to note: Most countries in the world do not (!) have a Covid certificate. Some countries require, depending on the epidemiological situation, a PCR test for entry or have entry quarantine obligations.
And by the way, you can find the arguments of the Yes-campaign here.