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

Smartphones and computers replaced the on-the-phone weather service in Switzerland
For three decades, dialing 162 was a popular way to get weather forecasts for different Swiss regions. Photo by Ekrulila from Pexels
Find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Swiss vaccination rate nears European average

Switzerland has been lagging behind its neighbours in terms of Covid vaccinations, but it is slowly climbing up.

Just over 63 percent of Switzerland’s residents are now fully immunised, compared to 71 percent in Italy, 68 in France, and 66 in Germany. At 62 percent, Austria has the lowest rate.

However, 63 percent is a number of Swiss adults (over the age 18) who have had two doses of either Moderna or Pfizer vaccines. When statistics include those over 12, Switzerland’s percentage climbs to 71.87 percent, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

“More ammunition than usual” found littering the country

In 2020, more ammunition scraps than usual were turned over to the army — the 1,055 misfired pieces represent a 60-percent increase over the average for recent years.

The reason, according to army spokesperson Stefan Hofer,  could be that more people visited the mountains during  the pandemic, unearthing proportionally more explosive devices.

These pieces are unexploded munitions which land in water or on the ground. They are found on old or active shooting ranges, above all in the mountains and on glaciers.

Anyone who discovers any ammunition remains should mark the site and alert local police. A bonus of up to 100 francs is paid to the finders if the discovery prevents an accident. Last year, the total amount of premiums reached 8,800 francs.

READ MORE: Why the bottom of Switzerland’s Lake Geneva is littered with discarded bombs and munitions

Telephone number for weather service to be retired

Dialing 162 on the phone to hear the latest weather forecast — the service that has been in use for 30 years —  will no longer be possible from November 1st.

Due to lack of interest, Switzerland’s official weather service, MeteoSchweiz, has decided to discontinue its telephone service..

To be maintained, three-digit phone numbers must be used by a large audience, at least several million per year.

But in 2020, barely 350,000 calls were received on the automated service — down from about 7 million in the early 2000s.

One of the main reasons for the drop in callers is the ease of getting weather forecasts on smartphones or online.

Foreign university graduates may be able to remain in Switzerland

Swiss universities attract students from all over the world. However, if they are not from the EU, they must leave the country after graduation, as strict quotas apply to third-country nationals.

This means that Switzerland invests for years in the education of foreign nationals, but doesn’t draw any profits afterwards. At the same time, there is a shortage of skilled workers in the country, especially in the fields of computer science, technology and natural sciences.

To reverse this trend, the Federal Council wants to exempt from quotas certain foreigners from third countries who have obtained a master’s degree or who are doing a doctorate in Switzerland.

If their gainful activity is of “high scientific or economic interest” and if they work in sectors where there is a shortage of qualified personnel, they might be able to stay in Switzerland after graduation.

READ MORE: How much universities in Switzerland charge foreigners compared to locals

Switzerland’s budget deficit lower than expected

Switzerland’s financial accounts for 2021 should end on a positive note: with a deficit of 14.8 billion francs, versus 17.4 billion that was budgeted.

The loss is due to the expenditure of 16.6 billion francs used to contain the pandemic, including 14.5 billion in the form of extraordinary expenses.

However, the accounts are expected to record an income of 1.3 billion, distributed from the profits of the Swiss National Bank.

State coffers also have money from other sources, including 300 million from Value Added Tax (VAT).

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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