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SWITZERLAND

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Wednesday

Find out what's going on in Switzerland today with The Local's short round-up of the news.

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Wednesday
Swiss consumed less chocolate in 2020. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Switzerland will not ‘overtax’ rich residents

The parliament has rejected the so-called “99% initiative” launched by the Young Socialists Party.

The initiative sought to tax the wealthiest 1 percent of Switzerland’s population and redistribute the money — estimated at 5 to 10 billion francs — among  those with low and medium incomes.

The money would be used to reduce the taxes or finance social benefits for low-earners, the party said.

The Federal Council had urged the parliament to reject the proposal on the grounds that billions of francs are already being redistributed in Switzerland, in particular through the social security scheme.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What changes in Swiss tax law in 2021? 

Swiss university creates an app to relaunch safe social events

The new “NotifyMe” application was created at the Polytechnic Institute of Lausanne (EPFL), the same institution that invented the SwissCovid contact tracing app. 

EPFL

The app alerts people who attended an event where there was a risk of COVID-19 infection. 

Concretely, the organiser of an event creates a QR-code on notify-me.ch which is made available to participants. They scan it with the app (check-in), then signal their departure when leaving (check-out). Their phone then records a code corresponding to the event, as well as the date and time of arrival and departure.

This information remains only in the phone, in an encrypted form. Events can be cleared manually or automatically disappear after 14 days.

“NotifyMe” does not record or communicate any personal data, does not use Bluetooth or GPS and operates in a“ decentralised ”manner, on everyone’s phones.

Majority of recovered Covid patients develop immunity

A Swiss study showed that 90 percent of people with Covid-19 still have antibodies in their blood six months after infection. During this period, these people are largely immune to the virus.

Researchers have been investigating whether contracting the virus imparts immunity and, if so, for how long. The preliminary findings of the study indicate that this is  be the case among a vast majority of Switzerland’s population.

Consumption of Swiss chocolate declined sharply in 2020

For the first time in nearly four decades, less domestically produced chocolate was sold in Switzerland, according to the Association of Swiss Chocolate Manufacturers (Chocosuisse). 

At the same time, the Swiss consumed more foreign chocolate, a phenomenon not seen in Switzerland since 1982.

This situation is a result of the high customs duties, as certain raw materials needed for the production of chocolate, such as sugar, are twice as expensive in Switzerland as abroad.

If you have any questions about life in Switzerland, ideas for articles or news tips for The Local please get in touch with us at [email protected]

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SWITZERLAND

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place. 

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