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HEALTH

Swiss fear a ‘pandemic within a pandemic’ due to British coronavirus mutation

The new coronavirus variant discovered in Britain could become a pandemic within a pandemic, Switzerland's infection control chief said Tuesday.

Swiss fear a 'pandemic within a pandemic' due to British coronavirus mutation
Photo: INA FASSBENDER / AFP

Switzerland, where daily case numbers are at a high level, has found the mutation in 28 samples — all people who arrived from Britain, or people with whom they had been in contact.

“This new variant could behave like a new pandemic within the pandemic,” Virginie Masserey, head of the health ministry's infection control department, told journalists in the capital Bern.

“That is to say it could spread exponentially and, indeed, add a new wave to the existing wave.

READ MORE: Switzerland promises everyone will be vaccinated by summer 

“That's why it is very important to really respect the measures that are recommended, to really reduce the number of infections.” The new variant has been found in seven of the 26 Swiss cantons, including Zurich, Geneva and Bern.

“These mutant strains are now present in Switzerland and, according to scientific experts, they are much more infectious,” said Rudolf Hauri, president of the Association of Cantonal Doctors.

“Given that in Switzerland, the activity or the spread of the virus has been far too high for several weeks… we must absolutely try to delay the increased spread of this strain.”

If the new variant could not be controlled, tighter restrictions would be necessary, said Masserey.

Switzerland was the first continental western European country to start its Covid-19 vaccination campaign, doing so on December 23 with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

Switzerland, population 8.6 million, has received its first 233,000 vaccine doses and expects to have more than 1.5 million by the end of February.

The wealthy Alpine nation has secured around 15.8 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, in deals with manufacturers Pfizer-BionTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

It recorded nearly 4,000 new cases and nearly 100 new deaths on Tuesday, taking its totals to 463,655 positive cases and 7,335 fatalities during the pandemic.

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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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