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HEALTH

‘No to SwissCovid’: Swiss far-right launch referendum bid to ban coronavirus tracing app

A citizens initiative has been launched against Switzerland’s coronavirus tracing app.

‘No to SwissCovid’: Swiss far-right launch referendum bid to ban coronavirus tracing app
The interface of Switzerland's coronavirus tracing app. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Under the name ’No to SwissCovid’, advocates are hoping to amend the country’s epidemic law in order to ban the app. 

The initiative was founded by Jean-Luc Addor, a national council member from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party. 

They say the government has gone too far in developing and rolling out the app, which impinges on the personal freedoms of Swiss citizens. 

In a statement accompanying the launch of the campaign, Addor says “the authorities of the country operated a coup d'état at the time of the pandemic by granting themselves the right to impose laws, we launch into resistance and ask that the last word return to the citizen”. 

READ MORE: Q&A: How will Switzerland's coronavirus tracing app work? 

“With this tracking system, we put one foot in the door of your privacy. The data will not only be accessible by the Swiss authorities, but by the rest of the world. We know the flaws of this tool, the application must use the operating systems of Google and Apple, but we know the appetite of these giants of the Net in terms of data collection.”

Addor said he was concerned the app would become mandatory in the future, citing the implementation of the mask requirement in public transport in Switzerland. 

Launched on June 25th, the app – entitled SwissCovid – is voluntary and the government has repeatedly promised it will not be made mandatory. 

It has been made free to members of the public. 

The initiative hopes to gather 50,000 signatures by October 8th, which would then force it to be put to a referendum. 

The chances of the referendum’s success appear limited however, as almost two million Swiss have downloaded the app in the four weeks since its launch

While this does not reach the 60 percent threshold researchers were hoping for, it exceeds the 20 percent target that the government wanted to reach when the app was launched.

At least 20 percent of the population are unable to download the app as it cannot be used on older phones, undermining the campaign’s argument that it will be made compulsory for all Swiss citizens. 

How does the app work?

The app uses bluetooth to digitally trace contact in order to get a more accurate idea for how the virus is spreading within the general public – and how to stop it. 

The app registers when an individual comes into contact with other individuals through a person’s smartphone location systems and bluetooth. 

READ: Swiss scientists launch a new app to collect Covid-19 data

Contact is traced when one person with the app is less than two metres from another person with the app for more than 15 minutes in a 24-hour period. 

Such contacts are recorded anonymously on both devices. 

If one of those users tests positive for the coronavirus, the person will receive a 'covid code' from the cantonal authorities.

Using this code, those who have been in contact with the positive person will be notified via the app. Once notified, users will be asked to contact the Swiss coronavirus hotline.

Image: SwissCovid/ETH

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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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