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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 a solid approval of all the issues in Sunday's referendum to higher beverage prices: 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

The Swiss say ‘yes’ to three proposals in Sunday’s referendum

Voters in Switzerland have accepted all three of the Federal Council’s proposals, rejecting, at the same time, opponents’ arguments.

The law making organ donation opt out across the country was approved by 60.20 percent, providing more money and staff to controversial EU border protection agency Frontex passed with 71.48 percent, and Lex Netflix – which makes streaming services pay a percentage fee to support Swiss filmmaking – passed with 58.42 percent.

READ MORE: Swiss back ‘Netflix’ law and steer clear of ‘Frontexit’

Read about the reactions in Switzerland to the vote results in our article to be published later today.

Price of beverages is soaring in Switzerland

Another popular product is becoming more expensive: non-alcoholic beverages.

“The price of PET [bottle] is skyrocketing, and with it that of mineral water and soft drinks”, according to a report in 20 Minuten.

“And there is a risk of further price increases.”

For instance, prices per litre of mineral water are now 5 to 10 cents higher, depending on the retailer. 

Of the four major retailers that the newspaper surveyed — Migros, Coop, Aldi and Lidl — only Coop has not yet increased the price of beverages, although its spokesperson conceded the company “cannot currently rule out price adjustments,” due to higher cost of raw materials, the shortage of packaging material, and the increased transport and energy costs.

Beverages have joined a growing list of other everyday products whose prices have increased due to inflation and war in Ukraine.

READ MORE: Seven products that are becoming more expensive in Switzerland

Migros gets tough on “unscrupulous” customers

Due to a growing number of shoplifters, some self-service Migros stores in Zurich are installing special barriers allowing only those who pay for their purchases to exit the store.

Customers who pay at self-checkout terminals must now scan the QR code of their receipt to open a barrier and leave with their purchases.

This is a rather drastic measure, “as Migros and Coop have so far relied on individual responsibility and random checks”, according to Tagblatt newspaper.

Russians critical of the Putin regime want to remain in Switzerland

A number of Russian women in Switzerland, who have criticised the war on social media and are therefore afraid of repercussions from the Kremlin, are asking the Federal Council to grant them asylum.

“I can understand that these women are concerned,” said Ulrich Schmid, Professor of Russian Culture and Society at the University of St. Gallen. “It is possible that the Russian secret service reports on people who are critical of the war”.

Should Russian deserters and opponents of the war get asylum in Switzerland? MPs’ views diverge.

For a Green MP Balthasar Glättli, Switzerland should grant these war objectors humanitarian visas.

However, according to Thomas Aeschi from the Swiss People’s Party (SVP), “Switzerland should treat all asylum seekers equally”, pointing out there are many people in other countries “who are also threatened”.

According to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), Russians who remain in Switzerland can apply to their canton of residence to extend their existing residence permit. “It will be checked whether they meet the legal requirements for this”, SEM said.

READ MORE: Reader question: Do Russians now have to leave Switzerland?

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]