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Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday

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

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday
Customer service workers preferred to nap than answer phones. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.

Extended Covid certificate may come into force this week

Health Minister Alain Berset will announce the extension of the certificate on Wednesday, according to media reports.

This move would come after the Federal Council decided last week to delay the requirement to present the immunity pass to gain access to indoor areas of restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms and private parties. 

At that  time, the Federal Council opted for a ‘wait-and-see’ approach, hoping that the epidemiological situation in Switzerland would improve enough to make this measure unnecessary.

However, the number of cases has continued to climb in the past few days, and the intensive care units in a number of Swiss hospitals are now filled to capacity.

READ MORE: When will Switzerland decide whether to enforce the Covid certificate in restaurants?

Bern mulls privileging vaccinated people for hospital access

The canton of Bern is debating the possibility of giving vaccinated patients priority access to hospitals.

If the number of beds is limited, hospital officials will have to decide who will be placed in intensive care units and who will be turned away..

Guidelines issued by the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences on triage of patients state that the highest priority should be given to those who have a good chance of recovering.

“Doctors will then treat first those who have the best chances of survival. It is more likely that they are people who have been vaccinated”, said Bern’s health director Pierre Alain Schnegg.

READ MORE: Covid-19: Switzerland now has most ICU patients in Europe

The wealthiest industries invest money in Swiss MPs

Lobbyists from various economic sectors have their interests represented in parliamentary committees through paid mandates, according to findings of a Swiss transparency platform Lobbywatch, which requires deputies to declare how much money they earn from lobbyists.

The organisation found that health insurers are the most aggressive in trying to influence lawmakers’ decisions. Lobbywatch found 25 links between these companies and the health commissions of both branches of the legislature.

Banks, pharmaceutical companies, as well as lobbyists representing agricultural interests, are also active in the parliament, Lobbywatch found.  

Post Office employees caught cheating while teleworking

Some employees of  Swiss Post’s customer service department who work from home have reportedly been taking long breaks or napping during their regular working hours.

“The manager noticed that some employees were locking themselves into the system in phases so that they no longer had to take customer calls” but had “some peace and quiet”, according to spokesperson Denise Birchler.

This is not the only case of employees of a Swiss company found to be breaking the rules while working from home.

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) recently discovered that many of its employees worked from abroad, including in far-away places such as Vladivostok, a Russian port city on the Sea of Japan.

Apparently, this particular employee “regularly logged into the SBB system and received Swiss wages, while sitting on the other end of the world”. SBB rules require home office workers to be in the same geographical location as the employer.

Swiss economy is recovering from second Covid slump 

Swiss GDP grew by 1.8 percent between April and June of this year after contracting 0.4 percent in the first three months of 2021, according to new data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

“Value added grew markedly in the service sector as a result of relaxed Covid measures. Private consumption recovered strongly. Industry also grew, although not as strongly as in previous quarters. In the second quarter, total GDP was only 0.5 percent lower than the pre-crisis level seen in the fourth quarter of 2019”, FSO reported.

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Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Heating with wood to become more expensive, redacted vaccine contracts, and other Swiss news in our roundup on Thursday.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Friday

Heating with wood is starkly more expensive

It’s not only the prices for fossil fuels, oil and gas that have risen sharply in Switzerland. Even those who rely on alternative energies such as wood as a fuel currently have to dig deeper into their wallets, SRF reported.

The pellets made from pressed sawdust are 46 percent more expensive than a year ago. “In general, we can summarise that the increase is due to higher production costs,” said Peter Lehmann, President of the “proPellets” Association. In addition to processing, wood is also more expensive.

Last year, almost 50 percent more pellet-based heating systems were built than in 2020, which has increased the demand for pellets. However, Lehmann assumes that the price will not decrease in the medium term; wood as a raw material is too much in demand in the current situation.

READ ALSO: Five of the biggest challenges facing Switzerland right now

Swiss government publishes redacted vaccine contracts

After a long period of resistance, the Swiss government disclosed the vaccine purchase contracts. Before that, however, it had redacted them out extensively, Watson reported.

The authorities have kept it a secret even the duration of secrecy, so the Swiss won’t know how long it will take until they can see the complete contracts. The lack of transparency has brought on criticism against the government.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why vaccinations are not mandatory in Switzerland

Almost 10 percent of Ukrainian refugees have found jobs in Switzerland

A total of 9.4 percent of adults possessing a special “S” permit are working, with most employed in the restaurant sector, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) said.

Nearly a quarter of them (23 percent) are active in the restaurant industry. In addition, 17 percent work in the “planning, consulting, IT” sector. Agriculture and education each account for 8 percent of those with the S status.

There are currently 61 424 status S applications in Switzerland, of which 59 411 persons have been granted S status, SEM said.

READ ALSO: 200,000 in 2022: Immigration fuelling Swiss population surge

Federal Council wants to decide on sanction policy in August

Switzerland’s Federal Council wants to discuss whether or not to adopt the so-called “thematic” sanctions of the European Union, Tagesanzeiger said.

These sanctions work differently than those imposed on a specific country. Instead, they allow measures to be taken against individuals, companies and organisations from different countries that violate certain rights. They are primarily concerned about violations regarding chemical weapons, cyber and human rights.

Specifically, in March 2021, the EU decided to sanction some persons, organisations and institutions from North Korea, Libya, Eritrea, South Sudan, Russia and China for serious human rights violations.

The controversial decision could lead to Switzerland sanctioning China, with Minister of Economic Affairs Guy Parmelin against adopting the measures.

READ ALSO: Switzerland bans imports of Russian gold