BERN, Switzerland (MindaNews) — Filipinos in Switzerland had their own shock, a smaller version of 9/11 today.
Many must have choked on their morning coffee as they read the internet news on a resolution by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases or IATF starting a travel ban tomorrow for nine countries that they had put on a “Red List.” Country number 9 on that list is Switzerland.
The resolution was dated September 10, 2021, and the travel ban is from September 12 to 18, 2021.
The “Red List” – which groups together Azerbaijan; Guadeloupe; Guam; Israel; Kosovo; Montenegro; North Macedonia; Saint Lucia and Switzerland — is boggling to say the least. Aside from their small sizes, this motley group of ex-Yugoslavia countries and island-nations did not even show up in any high-risk COVID list compiled by active monitoring groups.
None of these was in the top 30 countries with the most COVID-19 infections compiled and updated daily by the group worldometers.info.
Switzerland? It was number 39 on this worldometers list. Only Israel at number 32 was listed higher.
The news of the resolution posted on Facebook by the Philippine Embassy in Switzerland and shared on groups and pages immediately gathered reactions today from both Filipinos and the Swiss, ranging from mainly disbelief to anger and even sarcasm.
“Based on which criteria? It is really exaggerated.”
“…Together with some undeveloped countries on the same red list. It must be a misunderstanding….”
“This is insane!!! The government is really controlling people. Mostly are vaccinated as they wanted. To less hassle for traveling and now what’s next!?!?”
“Typo error…baka they mean Swaziland in Africa. Typical mga careless. Kahiya.”
“IATF: the worldwide best comedians!”
Although Switzerland is fighting off the fourth wave of infections brought by the highly infectious Delta variant that is affecting unvaccinated people, mainly in the 10 to 29-year-old age group, it has already managed the new variant cases reasonably well.
The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health reported this weekend a national seven-day average of 2,740 cases. (By way of contrast, the Philippines posted its highest one-day tally of 26,303 new Covid-19 cases on September 9).
“The number of new COVID hospital admissions is falling slowly, with a one-week average of 65 new admissions a day,” according to the news website Swissinfo.ch in its September 10, 2021 “Coronavirus: the Situation in Switzerland” report which is constantly updated.
A factor certainly in these falling hospitalizations is the national inoculation rate that has been achieved in Switzerland. More than half of 52 percent of the population of 8.6 million has already been fully vaccinated, meaning that they have received their two jabs. “A total of 9.8 million vaccine doses were (already) administered between late December and September 8,” added the Swissinfo report.
But even if they do not intimately know these numbers, any Filipino working or living in any of the Swiss cities would be surprised with the “Red-listing”, as it were, of Switzerland.
Since June 26, mask-wearing is no longer required outdoors, dance clubs and waterparks are open, and large events of over 10,000 can take place provided people can show a COVID certificate. Also since June 26, anyone from a third country who is fully vaccinated can enter Switzerland for tourism or a visit, although conditions may still apply – including testing or quarantine – for some countries.
Since May 31, indoor and outdoor areas of restaurants have also been open, and working from home has been recommended, but no longer required.
In fact, the government is now putting pressure on those who are still unvaccinated or those groups who are resisting or fighting vaccination as their personal choice.
Starting Sunday (September 13), Switzerland is tightening curbs on public life by requiring people to show a COVID certificate to access indoor spaces like restaurants, bars, and museums.
So any Filipino who has enjoyed the gradual easing of societal restrictions over the last months – or who compares the social situation from say, last year- will not easily understand why Switzerland is now on a “Red List” travel ban in the Philippines.
There was already clamor in the middle of this year when the IATF put out a “Green Countries” list which would have reduced quarantine days in the Philippines for travelers coming from those low-risk or low-incidence “Green” countries.
Even then, Switzerland or any of the major west European states were not on the “Green List.” Among the many questions posed by Filipinos then was: what information is the IATF getting on the COVID situation in countries abroad?
People who have already bought their tickets or planned a trip to the Philippines starting next week can only hope that the September 10 “Red List” is only a week-long ban. But the IATF, which was activated in January 2020, is not known in its resolutions to state the specific grounds for putting any country in its travel bans. Nor to state country-specific reasons for extending any of its travel bans.
So Filipinos living here may just have to sit and wonder and wait for the day when this alpine country is taken off the list.
(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their thoughts about their home country and their experiences in their adopted countries. Brady Eviota wrote and edited for the now-defunct Media Mindanao News Service in Davao and also for SunStar Cagayan de Oro. He is from Surigao City and now lives in Bern, the Swiss capital located near the Bernese Alps)
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