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

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 Friday
some cantons want to end the home office requirement. Photo by INA FASSBENDER / AFP

Immigration office warns about fake emails

More and more foreigners are receiving emails that appear to be sent by “Swiss Immigration”, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said on its website.

In most cases, a fictitious job in the hotel industry is offered, followed by fraudulent e-mails coming from [email protected][email protected][email protected] and [email protected].

The senders demand payment of 300 to 1,000 euros for a work permit in Switzerland and for health and accident insurance. These e-mails don’t come from the SEM, authorities say, and should be considered as an attempt to extort money and discarded.

Health officials say masks not required for ‘fully vaccinated’ people

In its newly released ‘Tips for Spring’ guidelines, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said if “you are fully vaccinated, you do not have to social distance or wear a mask at private gatherings with other fully vaccinated people”.

FOPH specified that “fully vaccinated means that you have received the two doses of vaccine and 14 days have elapsed since you had the second injection”.

Cantons want to end home working obligation

Many cantons are calling for companies to bring their employees back to the workplace, asking the Federal Council to lift the requirement, which was introduced on January 18th.

Zurich officials claim the obligation to work from home is a major psychological burden for employees. The canton of St. Gallen also said prolonged teleworking is harmful to mental health. “Many people are not doing well in the home office.”, according St. Gallen’s economics director Beat Tinner.

The Swiss Employers’ Association is also calling for the end of the home work requirement.

“If you work exclusively from your home office for a long time, the lack of exchange with work colleagues can be a burden,” said association’s spokesperson Fredy Greuter.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the rules of Switzerland’s obligation to work from home?

Foreigners in Switzerland pay more for car insurance

People from the Balkans and Turkey pay 61 percent more for car insurance premiums than Swiss drivers, an analysis by the price comparison portal, Comparis, shows.

Kosovars, Albanians and Serbs have to pay around 60 percent more premium on average. For Turkish nationals, the surcharge is 57 percent on average.

The premiums for the Portuguese is 23 percent higher.

The surcharges for foreigners differ greatly depending on the provider, Comparis found.

For instance, Basler Versicherungen and Touring Club Suisse (TCS)  charge the highest surcharge from Kosovars, Albanians, Serbs and Turks. At 89 percent, these people pay almost twice as much for car insurance as Swiss people with the same provider.

MP wants to ban large SUVs in Switzerland

National Councilor Isabelle Pasquier-Eichenberger from the Green Party is asking the Federal Council to ban the imports of new vehicles weighing 2 tonnes or more, arguing that they pollute much more than smaller cars.

The130,000 SUVs sold in Switzerland in 2019 — compared to 50,000 in 2010 — accounted for almost 40 percent of new cars purchased in the country. And the trend towards heavier vehicles is on the rise, Pasquier-Eichenberger said, explaining the reason for the motion she filed at the parliament.

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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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.