Written by Staff Writer
Taraka Dharmendra, CNN
Swiss voters have approved a controversial proposal that mandates the government invest as much as $5 billion in measures to confront the next epidemic, Ebola and influenza.
Several Swiss cities — including Basel, Bern and Zurich — have already introduced “pandemic preparedness measures,” including measures such as the construction of extra hospital beds.
The upcoming measure would increase efforts to keep the virus and its complications at bay, with $2 billion earmarked for research and the rest earmarked for disaster prevention.
Unveiled in March, the “Pandemic X-plan 2020” was passed Tuesday at the Swiss referendum amid tensions between populist members of the Swiss Parliament, led by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, which had argued the document aimed to introduce a social and economic protection net that exceeded Switzerland’s free movement agreement with the European Union, Cnn reported.
But the Swiss government, along with the Swiss Red Cross, said the plan would also make the country more secure in an emergency.
“This proposal serves as an important basis for a robust democratic safeguard, to counter a dangerous situation that could be created in the event of an epidemic,” the Swiss government said.
This tweet shows part of the crowd that turned out to vote in a Swiss referendum
Today’s vote comes amid a spike in cases of Ebola in West Africa, with death rates reaching 200% in remote regions, according to the World Health Organization.
A study by the WHO found that some cities like Dakar, Senegal, have high fever rates that may be influenced by human-to-human transmission.
Although the disease is easily eradicated, it has only been stopped once before — an outbreak in Congo in 1976, when a military cholera containment operation — during which thousands died.
The world’s history is replete with pandemics, including the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 that killed up to 50 million people worldwide, the largest number of deaths recorded until HIV/AIDS.
The Swiss plan was introduced as global public health organizations grapple with decreasing funds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this year that it was “disappointed” that Congress had not fully funded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Security Advisory Committee.
The advisory committee helps to coordinate government initiatives that could affect the United States’ health system in the event of a pandemic.
By Philip Sweet, CNN