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Corona in Switzerland: scapegoats from Kosovo

They are “disappointed”, write the organizers of the canceled Alba Festival on their website. Because they put a lot of heart and soul into organizing the Zurich Music Festival with Albanian artists – but above all, “because the reason for the withdrawal of approval is largely based on our origins. That cannot and must not be.”

The festival, at which 20,000 visitors were expected, should actually have taken place last weekend, but two days beforehand the Zurich cantonal government withdrew the organizers’ approval. A major event like the Alba Festival leads to an additional burden on the hospitals, wrote the government council. “In addition, the Alba Festival is primarily aimed at a severely affected community.” This was shown by contact tracing and also a look at the intensive care units. The vaccination rate in this population group is too low to be responsible for such a large event.

There was great indignation in the large Kosovar diaspora in Switzerland: “I feel extremely discriminated against,” said festival organizer Adem Morina at a press conference. On Instagram, his team rhetorically asked whether it would be fair to withdraw the approval of a Swiss-Albanian festival with 3G security level, while more than 50 other events could take place in Switzerland on the same weekend. In fact, the Zurich Pride took place over the weekend with around 20,000 participants, and a major athletics event starts in the city on Wednesday.

The spectacular cancellation is the preliminary climax of a mood in Switzerland that has built up over the past few months. The number of infections has risen sharply again since July, and the intensive care units have to accept many Covid patients again. Most recently, their share was almost half of the occupied beds. Most of them are not vaccinated.

The right-wing SVP criticizes those who return to travel

And indeed, doctors and health politicians report an above-average number of Covid patients with a connection to the Balkans. As confirmed by the Swiss government’s scientific task force, a large proportion of hospitalized Covid patients have become infected in a country in south-eastern Europe, most of them in Kosovo or North Macedonia. Many Swiss people with roots in these countries traveled there over the summer to visit relatives and friends. There, the corona numbers rose rapidly due to a lack of protective measures, at the same time the vaccination rate is low. Many seem to have brought the virus from there to Switzerland.

Politicians of the right-wing conservative SVP took this as an opportunity to criticize those returning from their travels. In an interview, Thomas Aeschi, SVP parliamentary group leader, said that it would be better to reintroduce border controls and quarantine after stays abroad than to increase the pressure on unvaccinated people domestically, as the Swiss government is planning to expand the certificate requirement.

Other politicians and journalists are outraged by the cancellation of the festival and, in general, by the scapegoat role that the Kosovar community is being pushed into. “Dear Government Councilor, the cancellation of the Alba Festival is discriminatory,” commented the online medium Watson. The NZZ also describes the canton’s decision as unjust, discriminatory and condescending. C├ędric Wermuth, co-chairman of the Social Democrats, spoke out on Facebook against “the absurd bashing of Kosovars and North Macedonians”; The correct answer to the low vaccination rate in this group is not to cancel an Albanian cultural festival, but to be there with a vaccination bus. Overall, Switzerland made “far too few, low-threshold vaccination offers”.

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