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HEALTH

Swiss researchers develop ‘coronavirus passports’ to show immunity

Switzerland is working towards issuing ‘immunity passports’ to allow people who are no longer able to catch the virus to re-enter society, although there are some reservations.

Swiss researchers develop 'coronavirus passports' to show immunity
A researcher with Swiss firm Liebherr working on a coronavirus test in northern Italy. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Swiss researchers are developing a plan to issue coronavirus ‘immunity passports’ to members of the population who have had Covid-19 or been vaccinated against the virus and are therefore immune. 

The plan, reported in the Tages Anzeiger on Tuesday, mirrors a similar plan in Germany where researchers are looking to establish coronavirus immunity through antibody testing. 

Once issued, the passport holders would be able to work in diverse industries as well as engage in social life and sports, as well as possibly travel abroad. 

READ: Coronavirus tracking: Swiss restaurants and bars to demand customer names and phone numbers

Idris Guessous from the University Hospital of Geneva has begun a research project which will use volunteers to investigate immunity to the virus, issuing those who are immune – either through having the virus or later by being vaccinated – with a Covid ID card or passport. 

The passport would also include a QR code in order to improve security, while the companies working on developing the passport have promised that the centrally-stored data will be safe. 

Philippe Gillet from Sicpa, one of the companies developing the passport, told the Tages Anzeiger that data would be protected through the use of QR codes and blockchain. 

“Thanks to our QR code and blockchain technology, we can guarantee the integrity and protection of private data,” he said. 

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, evidence on immunity could be available by autumn – allowing for the passports to be issued. 

Brigitte Meier, of the FOPH, said that the preferred approach would be to issue those who had been vaccinated against the virus with an immunity passport, allowing them to prove that they were immune. 

Guessous however told the Tages Anzeiger that there were still several unknowns about how people build immunity to the virus, meaning there was a need to be wary about the passport plan.

In particular, he was concerned that passport holders would accrue extra rights under the plan which may lead to discrimination.

Guessous also said that it could incentivise catching the virus and prompting some to become infected on purpose, leading to another spike in infections and potentially deaths. 

The World Health Organisation has stated publicly that it is opposed to issuing immunity passports. 

 

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TAXES

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

Switzerland’s tax deadline is just around the corner. Are Covid-related costs tax deductible?

Masks, tests and jabs: Can I deduct Covid-related costs from my taxes in Switzerland?

March 31st is the deadline for filing taxes in Switzerland relating to the 2021 financial year. 

Over the past two years, the Covid pandemic has seen a change in our spending habits. 

While we may have saved on restaurants and travel, we laid out considerable costs on a range of new expenses, including disinfectant, masks and Covid tests. 

As some of these costs are required by law, can they be deducted from your tax?

In some cases, expenses directly related to the Covid pandemic can be deducted. 

Masks, for instance, can be deducted as medical expenses in some cantons, Swiss tax specialist Markus Stoll told 20 Minutes

This depends on the specific framework for tax deductions related to medical expenses in that canton. 

EXPLAINED: What can I deduct from my tax bill in Switzerland?

Generally speaking, any medical costs paid out of pocket can be deducted. However, most cantons impose a minimum percentage limit from which these costs can be deducted. 

In many cantons, this will start at five percent of your yearly income in total (i.e. including other out-of-pocket costs like dental or specialist visits), meaning you would need to purchase a significant amount of masks to beat the threshold. 

What about testing and vaccination?

Testing and vaccinations however were largely free as their costs were covered by the Swiss government, which means associated expenses cannot be deducted. 

Those tests which were not covered by the government – for instance for travel abroad or for visiting clubs – cannot be deducted, Stoll says. 

“Tests for travel abroad or to visit clubs are not deductible” Stoll said. 

For a complete overview of taxation in Switzerland, including several specific guides, please check out our tax-specific page here. 

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