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

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

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Wednesday
The silhouette of the parliment building in Bern. The site can now be 'toured' via a new app. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

How Switzerland’s demographics changed in 2020 

Migratory flows contributed to the country’s demographic change last year, according to a new study by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO). 

In 2020, 163,000 immigrations were recorded, both of Swiss living abroad (25,600) and foreigners (137,400).

At the same time, 106,500 people left the country —25,800 Swiss citizens and 80,700 foreigners. While net migration remains positive (+56,500), the number of immigrants and emigrants decreased in comparison to 2019, by –3.9 and –15.6 percent, respectively.

During 2020, Swiss nationals immigrated to the country in greater numbers (+ 6.7 percent) and left less (–17.7 percent). Among people of foreign nationality, immigration and emigration fell (–5.6 percent and –14.9 percent, respectively).

 Where rents are going up and where they are decreasing

At the end of March, rents in Zurich jumped 0.9 percent and in Swiss-French regions they increased by 0.2 percent compared to February, according to the Swiss Real Estate Offer index.  

The increases were also noted in northwestern Switzerland (+ 0.3 percent), eastern part of the country (+ 0.2 percent) and Ticino (+1.9 percent). But elsewhere in the country, particularly in central regions, they dropped by 1.2 percent.   

READ MORE: This is how much it costs you to change apartments in Switzerland’s cities

An app showcases Swiss parliament

A new application, offering an audio tour of Switzerland’s parliament building and its surroundings, is now available for free in German, French, Italian, and English.  

The app features 12 sites, including the domed hall, lobby, north entrance, chambers of the National Council and Council of States, as well as other areas in and around the epicentre of Switzerland’s political life.

The app can be downloaded for iPhones and Android.

Masks are compulsory outdoors in neighbouring French towns

Due to increased Covid infections, masks must be worn outdoors in French municipalities of more than 10,000 inhabitants. This includes some towns lying just outside Geneva and Vaud.

Divonne-les-Bains, Ferney-Voltaire and Gex, where many cross-border workers live and where people from Switzerland often go shopping, are among the communes included in the new mask requirement.

Amnesty International says early Swiss Covid-19 restrictions were too harsh

Switzerland’s measures restricting the freedom of assembly, along with the closure of its borders with Italy at the beginning of the pandemic, were exaggerated and “disproportionately limited the right to freedom of expression”, the NGO said in its annual report.

The organisation also took issue with the fact that during the closure of the border with Italy from mid-March 2020, asylum applications were suspended as part of Covid-19 emergency measures.

As a result, refugees from the Greek island of Lesbos could not be resettled, the report notes.

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.