Swiss voters look set to back COVID-19 response plan

A fence is seen in front of the Swiss Federal Palace, Bundeshaus, in Bern, Switzerland, November 28, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

ZURICH (Reuters) -Swiss voters looked likely to back the government's pandemic response plan in a referendum on Sunday, paving the way for continuation of exceptional measures to stem the rising tide of COVID-19 cases.

Early government tallies of Sunday's polls showed a little more than 60% of the votes so far supporting the law passed this year to provide financial aid to people hit by the COVID-19 crisis and to require proof of COVID-19 vaccination, recovery or a negative test to enter bars, restaurants and certain events.

Restrictions to public life to curb coronavirus infections have sparked opposition in Switzerland, triggering a binding referendum under the country's system of direct democracy, even as cases have risen to levels the government this week deemed "critical".

The government has largely backed away from tightening measures despite cases approaching record highs, but on Friday and Saturday it imposed new travel restrictions to stem the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant that has sparked global concern.

A poll on Nov. 7 found opposition to the government's COVID-19 law had been growing, with 38% saying they opposed the law.

In two other referendum votes on Sunday, early tallies showed almost 60% approval for a labour union-backed proposal to support nurses while more than 68% of voters rejected a proposal to select federal judges by lottery from a pool of candidates proposed by experts.

For referendum motions to be passed they must win a simple majority of the votes cast nationwide while also winning support in a majority of cantons or regions.

(Reporting by Brenna Hughes NeghaiwiEditing by Louise Heavens and David Goodman)

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