President honours coronavirus 'heroes' on Swiss National Day

President Simonetta Sommaruga (seen here in red and white) invited Coronavirus frontliners to join a restricted gathering in the place where the Swiss federation is said to have its roots. Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Fifty-four coronavirus “heroes” were among those invited to a reduced National Day ceremony on the Rütli meadow on Saturday and were hailed by President Simonetta Sommaruga.

This content was published on August 1, 2020 - 17:03

Each of them had helped to overcome this crisis, she said, for example in hospitals, shops, schools or neighbourhoods. Sommaruga invited a man and a woman from each canton who played a key role in the crisis, as well as from the community of Swiss Abroad.

These 54 were among some 150 people who gathered for Sommaruga’s address at midday on the Rütli meadow in central Switzerland where the country’s founding pact was signed. This compares with 2,200 at the same event last year, but the number was cut to reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Sommaruga, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, also thanked the Swiss population for their solidarity during the coronavirus crisis. But she warned that it was not yet over. “New infections are on the rise again and we must remain vigilant,” she said. “Each one of us must be responsible, because it is only together that we will stop the pandemic taking off again,” she said.

Flags and Brunch

With gatherings of more than 1,000 people banned, large public fireworks displays have been cancelled, also prompting the Swiss to find other ways of celebrating.  For example in the western town of La Chaux-de-Fonds, known for its watchmaking, more than two thousand people hung the Swiss flag from their windows and balconies as musicians played in the streets.

Despite coronavirus restrictions, some 150 farming families opened their doors to the public for a traditional August 1 “Brunch on the Farm”. People came from different parts of the country for a “convivial meal”, according to the Swiss Farmers’ UnionExternal link, including economics minister Guy Parmelin who tasted traditional fare on a farm in canton Graubunden.

Message from Trump

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump sent congratulations to “the people of the Swiss Confederation” as they celebrate National Day. In a messageExternal link posted on the website of the US embassy in Switzerland, he stressed the US’s “strong bond of friendship with Switzerland”.

“This year commemorates the 40th anniversary of Switzerland’s Protecting Power arrangement for the United States in Iran, which has been of great value,” he wrote. “Your government remains instrumental in securing the release of American hostages wrongfully detained by the Iranian regime.  We also greatly appreciate Switzerland’s recent assistance in repatriating United States citizens as the coronavirus disrupted travel around the world.”

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