Swiss voters have approved a controversial law known as COVID (Combating Improvised Explosive Devices) despite opposition from opponents, who said they feared a surge in terrorist attacks on Switzerland.
The project seeks to ban most people from carrying knives, and for organisers of the event to submit a police permit, the reason for the weapons. Locals and businesses opposed the bill, saying the tools are needed to promote tourism, but it passed on Sunday night with more than 60% of the vote.
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Opponents have vowed to seek changes to the law, but said it could be helpful if it pushes ahead with a campaign to reduce people’s self-confidence and create barriers that deter tourists from coming to Switzerland.
“I think the agreement will be a kind of Swedish model and make Switzerland a more dangerous place to visit,” Oliver Barrero-Pretti, who runs a restaurant near a stadium in Zurich, told a local newspaper. “In addition, this law will probably result in tourism agencies slashing their investment in Switzerland and that will hit the economy hard.”
However, supporters said the project was needed to ensure safety in the wake of a rise in knife attacks, particularly in Zurich. Switzerland is at the crossroads of several different cultures, languages and traditions. The head of police, Lukas Struwe, said the measure was necessary to ensure Swiss security.
“We are in a situation where we are continually tested,” he said. “In addition to our traditional values, we take seriously our legal obligations.”
With unemployment remaining close to record lows, the text was backed by almost half of the registered voters. Two-thirds of those eligible also supported the proposal in a separate referendum over a local police measure to fine or issue warnings to people who carry truncheons at concerts.
The proponents said knife-carrying poses a unique risk because without them, assaults or aggravated robberies in concert halls or sports stadiums might not have occurred.
“Switzerland wants to make it impossible to carry weapons with deadly power, to modify buildings and to set off bombs,” said Roger Kern, the mayor of Zurich and a co-founder of the initiative. “That is a positive signal for our world.”