Swiss hold national silence for COVID victims

Published March 5, 2021, 9:01 PM

by Agence-France-Presse

Switzerland held a minute of silence on Friday in memory of those who have died in the coronavirus pandemic, a year after the country’s first fatality.

The silence was held at 11:59 am before church bells rang across the country. Lausanne Cathedral rang a special chime used in the Middle Ages to alert the city to danger.

Watchman of the Cathedral of Lausanne, Renato Haeusler manually rings the 3600 kg “La Clemence” emergency bell in the Cathedral’s belfry tower to pay tribute to victims of COVID during a national commemoration day on March 5, 2021, in Lausanne.

“In memory of those who have left us, who have suffered, who continue to struggle to recover their health or their work, and also in tribute to the health care staff who have been on the breach night at day, our country wishes to devote this moment of reflection,” said President Guy Parmelin.

The pandemic’s first victim in Switzerland was a 74-year-old woman in the western Vaud region surrounding Lausanne.

“This pandemic has since shaken the whole world. Switzerland has paid a heavy price: more than 9,000 dead and entire sections of our economy devastated,” said Parmelin.

“We still have many people sick and recovering, as well as thousands of people without work or prospects.”

‘Gradual normalization’

At least 9,267 people have died from more than 558,400 COVID infections in the wealthy Alpine nation of 8.6 million people.

Parmelin said the moment of silence allowed the country “to witness together, in the silence of our hearts, our friendship, our support and our gratitude”.

The government said it was these strengths that would allow Switzerland to move forward, look to the future and overcome the crisis.

On Monday, Switzerland began easing some of the restrictions imposed to rein in the second wave of the pandemic, reopening and people could gather in groups of up to 15 rather than five.

In what the government called the “gradual normalisation of social and economic life”, a second stage of lifting the restrictions is scheduled for March 22.

A total of 805,202 vaccine doses have been administered in Switzerland, one of the better doses per population rates in Europe.

Switzerland rarely holds such memorials.

A national silence was held in 2001 after the September 11 attacks in the United States, and after a gun rampage in the Zug canton’s regional assembly. One was also held after the 2004 Madrid terror attack.