Swiss hold minute's silence for Covid victims
Switzerland held a rare minute of silence on Friday in memory of its coronavirus victims, a year after the country's first Covid-19 fatality.
The silent commemoration was held at 11:59 am after which church bells rang across the country.
Lausanne Cathedral rang a special chime used in the Middle Ages to alert the city to danger but also to call citizens to stand together in the face of crises.
"In memory of those who have left us, who have suffered, who continue to struggle to recover their health or their work, and also in tribute to the healthcare staff... our country wishes to devote this moment of reflection," President Guy Parmelin said.
The pandemic's first victim in Switzerland was a 74-year-old woman in the western Vaud region, of which Lausanne is the capital.
"This pandemic has since shaken the whole world. Switzerland has paid a heavy price: more than 9,000 dead and entire sections of our economy devastated," said Parmelin.
"We still have many people sick and recovering, as well as thousands of people without work or prospects," he added.
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At least 9,278 people have died from nearly 560,000 recorded Covid infections in the wealthy Alpine nation of 8.6 million people.
Switzerland rarely holds national silences. Parmelin said the occasion allowed the country "to witness together, in the silence of our hearts, our friendship, our support and our gratitude".
The government said these strengths would allow Switzerland to move forward, look to the future and overcome the crisis.
On Monday, Switzerland began easing some of the restrictions imposed to rein in the second wave of the pandemic, including opening non-essential shops.
A second stage of easing the restrictions is scheduled for March 22, when the government hopes to allow the opening of outdoor areas at restaurants and change the requirement to work from home.
On Friday it announced a mass expansion of free testing for the virus, at a cost this year of more than one billion Swiss francs ($1.08 billion, 900 million euros).
"This will happen in parallel to the gradual relaxing of restrictions on social activities and economic life," the government said.
"Because the more infectious virus variants are spreading at an increasing rate, there must be stricter prevention and earlier detection of local outbreaks."
The government said it would assume the cost of all testing from March 15.
A total of 882,184 vaccine doses have been administered in Switzerland, giving one of the better doses per population rates in Europe.
Formula One team Williams had to abandon the unveiling of their 2021 car via an augmented reality app on Friday after they were targeted by hackers.
The British team had hoped to allow fans to project the new machine into their homes but instead they had to pull the plug just an hour before the innovative launch.
"Williams Racing planned to reveal its 2021 challenger, the FW43B, via an augmented reality app later today," the team said in a statement.
"However, sadly, because the app was hacked prior to launch, this will no longer be possible."
It added: "We were very much looking forward to sharing this experience with our fans, particularly during this difficult time when being able to bring in-person experiences directly to our fans is sadly not possible."
British driver George Russell, who is set for his third season with Williams, tweeted: "Massive shame. I've seen the app and it was going to be an awesome experience for you guys. Whoever did this, seriously not cool."
Williams, who have been rooted to the foot of the constructors' championship for the past three seasons, tweeted an image of their new car, in blue and white livery with yellow accents.
Founder Frank Williams sold the F1 operation to US investment firm Dorilton Capital last year, with his daughter Claire Williams relinquishing her role as the de facto team principal.
Speaking for the first time as CEO of Williams Racing, Jost Capito said the team, who were a powerful force in the 1980s and 1990s, had set their sights on a return to the front of the grid.
"Williams Racing is a sporting icon, and a team that has forged a reputation of success through sheer determination and grit intertwined with innovation, passionate and skilful race-craft and an absolute desire to win," he said.
Capito added: "We have created a fresh new livery for the 2021 car -- one that acknowledges our incredible past and retains the spirit, drive and motivation that remains at the core of Williams' DNA yet looks to the future and signposts our long-term ambition to return to the front of the grid."
F1 pre-season testing takes place in Bahrain from March 12 to 14, with the opening grand prix staged in the kingdom on March 28.
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