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

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

Four-day work week with full salary is becoming a reality in Switzerland. Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash
Four-day work week with full salary is becoming a reality in Switzerland. Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

Consultation with cantons about new Covid measures ends today

Cantonal authorities have been mulling over the Federal Council’s proposals aiming to curb the spread of Omicron variant. The consultation period concludes today.

Among measures put forth by the government on January 12th is the extension of the validity period of measures currently in place until March 31st. At the same time, validity of the Covid certificate would be reduced from 365 to 270 days to be in line with the EU rules.

Further measures, including tighter mask regulations and a change in testing rules, are also on the agenda.

If cantons agree, the Federal Council wants to introduce these measures from February 1st.

Another decision announced on January 12th, shortening the quarantine from 10 to five days, is already enacted.

READ MORE: Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Omicron: Reliability of antigen tests ‘severely decreased’

There has been some evidence lately that rapid antigen tests are not sensitive enough to accurately detect all Omicron-related infections.

This is confirmed by a study at University of Geneva.

According to the university’s  infection specialist , Isabella Eckerle, an antigen test is not always reliable in the initial contamination phase. “For some rapid tests, it appears to be the case more often with Omicron, as shown by early data from our lab and others as well”, she said.

“Many tests do not even detect very positive samples, whereas patients from whom the samples were taken were probably highly contagious”, Eckerle pointed out, adding that flawed tests give infected people a false sense of security.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) confirmed  that “no test is perfect”.

In the consultation documents FOPH sent to the cantons, it refers to “isolated studies” which found the reliability of rapid antigen tests for Omicron “severely decreased”.

PCR tests are much more accurate, experts say.

Swiss Health Minister ‘trivialises Covid,’ epidemiologist says

In a recent remark, Health Minister Alain Berset compared the course of Omicron infection to that of flu.

The comment angered epidemiologist Andreas Cerny. “Berset shot himself in the foot”, he said, as “Omicron is much more contagious than flu and infects more people. The sheer number of cases puts a heavy burden on the health system and to a completely different extent than, say, a flu epidemic”.

Cerny also added that by playing down the potential risks of Omicron, the Health Minister  “torpedoed the booster campaign, which plays a central role in relieving the burden on the healthcare system, as well as maintaining the infrastructure and basic services”.

Berset defended his flu comparison, stating he “made the statement in relation to people with immunity. For people with low or no immunity, the virus still poses a risk that should not be underestimated.”

READ MORE: Omicron officially dominant in Switzerland

A four-day work week becoming a reality in Switzerland

The concept of working Monday through Thursday but being paid for a full five-day week may seem unfeasible, but this is already becoming a reality.

While a four-day week at full salary is not yet widespread, a handful of Swiss employers have introduced this system.

Could this work model catch on a wider scale?

According to Gudela Grote, professor of psychology and work organisation at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), such a system would be “more complex [to implement]  in a large company than in a small one.”

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 Monday

From high standard of living to expiring Covid certificates — 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

 Switzerland’s standard of living higher than in most of Europe

A new survey by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) has ranked Switzerland in third place, behind Luxembourg and Norway, in terms of distribution of income and the standard of living.

“The standard of living in Switzerland remains one of the highest in Europe. This means that despite the high price levels, the population’s financial situation, after deduction of obligatory expenditures, is more comfortable than that of its neighbouring countries and countries in the European Union”, OFS said.

The average disposable income in Switzerland for 2020 —  the last year for which official data is available —was 2.1 times higher than that of Portugal, 1.4 times higher than that of France, 1.2 times higher than that of Germany ,and 1.1 times higher than that of Austria, according to FSO.


READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?

Millions of Covid certificates expire soon — what’s next?

As certificates are valid for nine months after the second vaccine dose or a booster, “millions of Swiss Covid certificates will expire by autumn at the latest”, according to 20 Minutes.

Since many countries still require a vaccination certificate for entry, and as the second round of boosters is not yet available in Switzerland,  this means that a large number of people may not be able to travel abroad.

And while other countries have already started to administer second booster shots, Swiss health authorities are dragging their feet, not having even issued a recommendation for the fourth dose yet.

This worries some MPs, who are calling on the government to make second boosters available soonest possible.

 “The past has shown that cantons are not always sufficiently prepared. Something like this mustn’t happen again”, said MP Fabian Molina, adding that anyone travelling abroad should be able to be re-vaccinated.   

Another deputy, Yvonne Feri, noted that the federal government and the cantons have to prepare to vaccinate again within a short period of time.

READ MORE: Reader question: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

Meteorologist: Get ready for very hot summer

It has been hot in much of Switzerland over the last few days, with temperatures exceeding 30 degrees in some parts of the country.  But this is just a ‘foretaste’ of what lies ahead.

While this week is expected to be a bit cooler — more seasonal lower 20s —forecasts for the summer months call for even more intense heat. “It will be hotter than usually,” according to Thomas Buchel, head of SRF Meteo.

“New heat records are very likely. It would be surprising if it went in another direction”, he said.

READ MORE: Heatwave: Why is it so hot in Switzerland right now?

Switzerland purchases Paxlovid to fight Covid

The medication, manufactured by Pfizer, is given to “patients at increased risk of developing a severe form of the disease”, The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced.

The government is buying 12,000 packages of the drug, to be administered initially in cantonal medical centres before it can be prescribed by general practitioners and be available in pharmacies. The government will bear the costs of the outpatient treatment.

Though the antiviral pill is not yet officially approved by the regulatory body, Swissmedic, “it can, under COVID-19 Ordinance 3, be used for the treatment of patients while the authorisation procedure is in progress”, FOPH sai

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]