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

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 Tuesday
Taxes will become more equitable in Switzerland. Photo by Depositphotos

The “Fair Taxes” initiative is launched

The popular initiative  “for an independent individual taxation of civil status” helps promote equality between men and women, because it offers economic incentives by not penalising second incomes, such as those of working mothers.

Today, individual taxation in Switzerland only applies to single people and unmarried couples. In contrast, married and same-sex couples living in registered partnerships are taxed jointly.

Their income is therefore added up.

This results in a higher tax rate, meaning that couples taxed collectively pay more tax for the same income than couples or single people taxed individually.

READ MORE: What freelancers in Switzerland need to know about paying tax

Official ‘Long Covid’ strategy demanded

Up to 300,000 people in Switzerland could be affected by Long Covid, a condition where coronavirus symptoms persist for months and range from mild to incapacitating.

Around a quarter of all people infected with Covid-19 have not fully recovered even after six months, according to a study by the University of Zurich.

An estimated 7,500 new cases could be added every month, the study found.

Sufferers formed an organisation called Long Covid Alliance and are demanding a government strategy on how to deal with these long-term consequence and more research into specific forms of therapy.

Council of States voted in favour of this proposal and the Federal Council will now follow up on this issue.

Patients will have easier access to cannabis medicines

Those who are dependent on cannabis drugs will be able to obtain them more easily from their doctors, the parliament decided.

Currently physicians must obtain permission from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) before prescribing these medications.

However, all such treatments will have to be reported to FOPH, which will monitor the process and collect relevant data.

Authorisation agency Swissmedic will regulate the cultivation, manufacture, processing and trading of medicinal cannabis.

Covid-related debt on the rise

An analysis of the effects of the Covid pandemic by the Center of Economic Research at ETH Zurich found that 11 percent of households with an income of less than 4,000 francs per month and 6 percent of households with an income of between 4,000 6,000 had to go into debt in order to cover their expenses.

Mostly people who have become unemployed (25 percent), are self-employed (13 percent) or have reduced work hours (11 percent), have borrowed money during the pandemic, researchers found.

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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.