Bed bugs attack Swiss army school recruits

An army of bed bugs is attacking infantry recruits at a Colombier training school in the canton of Neuchâtel.

Bed bugs attack Swiss army school recruits
Close-up of a bed bug. Photo: Piotr Naskrecki

The Swiss Army has been trying to fight back but so far the blood-sucking bugs appear to be standing their ground, according to a report from the ATS news agency.

Officials discovered on Thursday that the bugs, parasitic insects that feed on human and other blood, infested six beds in a room in the barracks.

Despite the introduction of “emergency measures”, the infestation spread to a further two beds with a total of 20 beds affected, the federal Department of Defence announced on Monday.

The rooms are to be disinfected in the next two to three weeks by a private company specializing in eradication of pests, the department said.

Corridors and toilets will also be treated in the battle against the bugs.

Recruits who were quartered in the affected rooms have already been housed elsewhere, the defence department said.

Individuals who may have been in contact with the bugs are to receive medical attention “when needed”, the department said.

In addition their equipment will be replaced.

Bed bugs, so named because they favour bedding and warm sleep areas as habitat, feed on their hosts without being noticed.

But experts say a number of adverse health effects can result from bed bug bites.

Skin rashes, psychological effects and allergic symptoms may result.

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Do naturalised Swiss citizens have to do military service?

Once foreigners become citizens of Switzerland they get new benefits as well as responsibilities. Military service is one of the latter but does everyone have to do it?

Do naturalised Swiss citizens have to do military service?
Once you become Swiss, military service becomes obligatory. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Many foreigners wonder why Switzerland, which hasn’t fought a war in modern times, needs an army in the first place.

But military presence is ubiquitous in Switzerland, stretching far beyond the practical Swiss army knives.

All able-bodied Swiss men from the age of 18 until 30 are required to serve in the armed forces or in its alternative, the civilian service. Military service for women is voluntary and those who choose to do so will be pleased to know they can wear new, comfortable underwear designed just for them.

READ MORE: Women in Swiss military no longer forced to wear men’s underwear

Once you become a Swiss citizen and are between the ages of 18 and 30, you can expect to be conscripted. This was an experience of one of our readers, Dr. Robert Schinagl from the USA, who said that since he became naturalised “the military has been attempting to recruit me for national service”.

READ MORE: ‘A feeling of belonging’: What it’s like to become Swiss

What if you are a dual national?

In general, having another citizenship in addition to the Swiss one is not going to exempt you from military service in Switzerland.

However, there is one exception: the obligation to serve will be waved, provided you can show that you have fulfilled your military duties in your other home country.

If you are a Swiss (naturalised or not) who lives abroad, you are not required to serve in the military in Switzerland, though you can voluntarily enlist. 

But wait, there’s more

In case you have to serve but for some reason can’t, you’re not off the hook.

If the army won’t get you, taxes will.

If you are unfit for service, or if you fall under the category of dual citizens who served in foreign armed forces (as mentioned above), you will have to pay the so-called Military Service Exemption Tax.

You must pay it from the age 19 until you turn 37 — provided, of course, that you become Swiss during this time.

This annual tax amounts to 3 percent of your taxable income, or a minimum of 400 francs.

What if you perform the Civil Defence service instead of the military?

Introduced in 1996, this is an alternative to the army, originally intended for those who objected to military service on moral grounds. Service is longer there than in the army, from the age of 20 to 40

Civil service has, however, proven its mettle during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, when  around 4,000 civilian volunteers were supporting the emergency services and hospitals.

If you are part of civil defence service, you are entitled to a deduction from the annual military service exemption tax. For every day you worked for civil defence, you can deduct this tax by 4 percent.

This website (in German, French and Italian) explains how to apply for Civil Service.

Does serving as Vatican Papal Guard disqualify you from the military service?

Nice try, but no.

They are not soldiers but part of the Vatican City police force.