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

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

FFP2 masks protect much better against Covid infection, Swiss experts found. Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP
Customers wearing FFP 2 protective face masks stand in front of a shelf with such masks in a supermarket in Vienna on January 25, 2021. Most of the restrictions, including mandator use of masks have fallen in many places(Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Switzerland will not tighten Covid measures – for now

It came through late on Wednesday evening so you may have missed it, but the Swiss government has decided against putting in place stricter Covid measures despite recording the highest number of new cases daily since the pandemic began. 

Officials however said “stricter measures (including closings) are ready” if the situation continues to deteriorate.

On Wednesday, Switzerland recorded 30,000 new infections. 

This is the first time the 30,000 mark has been breached. On Tuesday, more than 20,000 were recorded – which itself was the first time Switzerland had crossed the 20,000 mark. 

Health Minister Alain Berset said the crucial metric however was not how many people were contracting the virus, but how many of those infected fall seriously ill. 

“The decisive factor is how many Omikron infected people need intensive care” Berset said.  

READ MORE: Switzerland decides against further Covid measures – for now

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) cutting services due to Covid-related staff absences

Personnel absences due to Omicron are increasing at SBB, resulting in an “increasingly tense” situation, and the company has already exhausted its staff reserves.

As a result, “individual train cancellations cannot be ruled out in the next few days”, according to SBB spokesperson Frédéric Revaz.

Among the recently suspended connections were five Léman Express trains, which connect Geneva with neighbouring areas of France.  Also, fewer Tilo trains in Ticino, connecting the canton with cities in the Italian region of Lombardy, are running, and services between Chiasso and Como, as well as between Como and Varese are cancelled.

If you are taking a train in the near future, you can check any last-minute changes in the schedule on SBB app.

READ MORE: How Switzerland wants to prevent an Omicron shutdown

Omicron wreaks havoc in mountain resorts as well

Also because of quarantined employees, some restaurants and hotels in well-known resorts have to close down in the middle of the ski season.

Several hotels in popular Alpine resorts like Zermatt, Davos, St.Moritz, Pontresina, and Verbier  are shutting down their restaurants temporarily as there is not enough staff to serve meals.

“The shortage of personnel due to coronavirus is a problem”, according to Franz Caluori, president of Graubünden’s restaurant association. In his canton alone, a dozen restaurants have closed so far, he said.

These are the politicians that Swiss people like the best (and least)

In general, the Federal Council is evaluated positively by Switzerland’s population, a new Tamedia survey found, with 64 percent of respondents saying they are satisfied with the performance of the seven cabinet members.

The most highly rated federal councillor is Health Minister Alain Berset, who obtained a score of 4.33 out of 6, even though he has often been the subject of criticism for his handling of the pandemic.

Viola Amherd comes in second, with a score of 4.23, followed by Guy Parmelin (4.14), Karin Keller-Sutter (4.12), Simonetta Sommaruga (4), and Ueli Maurer (3.75).

What about the new president Ignazio Cassis? He is least liked, getting a score of only 3.51.

However, that’s only an informal poll, there is no talk of a referendum on this issue.

The winner: Health Minister Alain Berset. Official government photo

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why does Switzerland’s president only serve one year?

Swiss experts: FFP2 masks protect ‘dozens of times better’ against Covid

Correctly worn, FFP2 masks reduce the risk of infection by 70 times, the Covid-19 Task Force said in its new situation report.

The Task Force cites a laboratory study showing the risk of virus transmission within 20 minutes of contact is 10 percent with a correctly worn medical mask, but only 0.14 percent with an FFP2 mask.

This is especially true in situations with increased exposure to the virus, where correctly worn FFP2 masks were found to offer considerable additional protection.

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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For members


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

Swiss lakes and rivers drying up, house prices climbing, and other news from Switzerland in The Local's short roundup.

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

Drought: Swiss lakes and rivers don’t have enough water

The water levels of Lakes Constance, Walen, Lucerne and Lugano have reached historic lows, according to the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

Continued drought has also impacted some rivers, whose levels are “strongly to moderately” below average for the season, FOEN said.

The level of the Rhine and the Reuss, for instance, is “among the lowest ever recorded during the summer months”, while the Aare and the Limmat show low levels only observed “every two to five years”.

READ MORE: Body stress, drought and borders: How the heatwave affects Switzerland

Swiss operators to phase out 2G cellular networks

The second-generation mobile networks have become obsolete with the introduction of the much faster 4G and 5G broadbands, and Switzerland will deactivate the old system at the beginning of 2023.

However, while most people already own devices that support 4G and 5G standards, some will be affected by the change.

The reason is that some emergency call systems, such as those installed on older elevators, will no longer work.

The same holds true for some navigation systems (GPS), which use the 2G and are not yet adapted to newer technologies.

The media reports that although some elevator and GPS manufacturers are not happy about the change, both Swisscom and Sunrise said they informed the affected industries “early enough” of the planned 2G shutdown.

Property prices continue to rise despite higher interest rates

The average purchase price for single-family homes in Switzerland went up by 5.6 percent in the first six months of this year, and the cost of apartments rose by 3.2 percent, according to a new survey by mortgage broker Moneypark and the Zurich-based startup Pricehubble, which specialises in real estate data.

Along with mounting real estate prices, fixed-rate mortgage rates have also been climbing.

As a result of these developments, “many mortgage holders have opted for offers with shorter maturities», the survey found.  

“In particular, mortgages with maturities of more than 10 years were less in demand”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why not paying off your mortgage in Switzerland can save you money

Roche launches new diagnostic test for Covid

The Swiss drug manufacturer has developed a new test that should allow better understanding of coronavirus infections.

Specifically, the product, called Elecsys IGRA, should shed light on immune responses to the virus and vaccinations, Roche said in a press release.

“This in turn may help understand and identify those at higher risk of progressing to severe disease during an existing or future infection. This is particularly important in immunocompromised and high-risk patient groups.The test results can help healthcare professionals to provide them with long-term guidance like appropriate treatment”, the company added.

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]