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SWEDEN

Swiss stick with Swedish jets to replace fleet

The Swiss government is standing by its choice of the Gripen jet to replace its ageing fighter fleet, the defence ministry said on Tuesday, after reported military fears that the aircraft was not up to
the job.

Swiss stick with Swedish jets to replace fleet
Jamie Hunter/Saab AB

Defence Minister Ueli Maurer reaffirmed his preference for the Swedish-made Gripen which he said at a conference in Bern was the best value for money.

“The plane meets technical demands, even if it isn’t the most expensive aircraft on the market,” said Maurer.

The Federal Council announced in November its decision to purchase 22 Gripen for an estimated 3.1 billion francs ($3.4 billion), reportedly the cheapest of three offers.

French planemaker Dassault’s Rafale and the Eurofighter, produced by the EADS consortium, were the other bidders.

“The Gripen provides the best cost-performance,” said Maurer, who came under pressure after excerpts of a critical Swiss air force report appeared in the press at the weekend.

The 2009 assessment, published in Le Matin Dimanche newspaper, said tests carried out the previous year had shown the Gripen’s effectiveness “remains inadequate to achieve air supremacy in the face of future threats beyond 2015.”

Maurer was on Tuesday backed up by Swiss air force commander, Lieutenant General Markus Gygax, who told the conference that Saab were offering a modernised model, with improved performance.

The decision to select the Gripen is to be sent to lawmakers for final approval later this year.

Dassault has reportedly made a counter-offer undercutting the current deal, prompting Saab to review its price.

Maurer said the government had asked the French company to submit “a concrete offer” which Bern would then assess.

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TRAVEL

Switzerland orders temperature checks for travellers from Sweden

Switzerland opened its borders Monday to travellers from European Union countries but said temperature checks would be required for those flying in from Sweden, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Switzerland orders temperature checks for travellers from Sweden
Illustration photo: AFP

Like a raft of other European countries, non-EU member Switzerland reopened its borders on Monday after months of coronavirus curbs, to travellers from all 27 countries in the bloc, along with Britain, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

But its health ministry said that people entering the landlocked country from nations with high numbers of new infections could be subjected to temperature checks.

“This is currently the case with regard to Sweden,” it said.

“From June 15, passengers arriving on direct flights from Sweden will therefore have their temperature checked at the airport,” it said, adding that “persons with signs of a high temperature will be given a medical examination and, if necessary, be tested for COVID-19.”

Sweden controversially took a far softer approach to reining in the outbreak than most countries.

It kept cafes, bars, restaurants and most businesses open, as well as elementary and middle-schools, in recent months as COVID-19 spread, stressing that citizens could be relied on to practice the recommended physical 
distancing without legally-binding measures.

While Sweden's Nordic neighbours have reported deaths linked to the pandemic in the hundreds and have seen new cases slow to a trickle, Sweden has reported nearly 5,000 deaths and more than 50,000 cases.

The country of 10.3 million people continues to report around 1,000 new cases each day.

Meanwhile Switzerland, population 8.5 million, has registered over 31,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — with just 14 new cases reported on Monday — and 1,675 deaths.

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