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SWITZERLAND

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

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 Thursday
The origin of baked goods must be declared, MPs said. Photo by JUSTIN HAMEL / AFP

Three referendums approved for June 13th

The issues to be voted on are the anti-Covid legislation, the law on reduction of greenhouse emissions, and the new anti-terrorism measures.

These three topics are in addition to two that were approved previously: the initiative for clean drinking water and healthy food, as well as initiative against pesticides.

This will be the second round of referendums in 2021, after the vote on March 6th.

The Local will publish an article today detailing the issues at stake on June 13th

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is at stake in Switzerland’s March 7th referendums? 

Orange dust from Sahara found to be ‘very weakly” radioactive

Samples of the dust that coated parts of Switzerland in early February were taken at the border between Switzerland and France and examined in a laboratory.

Investigators discovered that the dust was a residue of the nuclear tests carried out by France in the Sahara desert in the 1960s. They also found that it is radioactive, but at a very low level which is not believed to be harmful to human health

Parliament introduces obligation to declare origin of baked goods

Where does our daily bread come from? Deputies want this question answered and made the declaration of origin compulsory for bread and other baked goods sold in Switzerland.

The traceability must be guaranteed in view of the growing competition from foreign markets, MPs said. The indication of origin will let consumers know where the baked goods were manufactured, so they can be fully aware of what they are buying.

Pizza dough and breadcrumbs will be exempted from the requirement, but rolls and sandwiches will be included.

Swiss universities are in top 10 in global rankings

Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETZ) in Zurich is in the fourth place in the 2021 ranking of world’s best universities conducted by a global education network, Quacquarelli Symonds (QS).

The ETH is in the Engineering and Technology category, but it is not the only university in Switzerland that scored high.

Seven hospitality management institutions also took 10 top spots in the ranking: EHL- Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne is in the first place, followed by Glion Institute of Higher Education (3), SHMS Swiss Hotel Management School (4), Hotel Institute Montreux (6), César Ritz Colleges (7), Culinary Arts academy (8), and IHTTI School of Hotel Management (10).

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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