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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

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

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

You can reach the 4 Vallées resorts faster by sitting on a train than in a traffic jam. Photo by Kipras Štreimikis on Unsplash
You can reach the 4 Vallées resorts faster by sitting on a train than in a traffic jam. Photo by Kipras Štreimikis on Unsplash

New record: Almost 40,000 new Covid cases reported in Switzerland

The latest figures from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) show that the highest-ever number of new coronavirus infections was reached this week: 39,807.

This spike seems to counter a statement by Virginie Masserey, FOPH’s head of the infection control unit, that Switzerland has likely reached the peak of the pandemic, which implies that cases should be dropping rather than increasing.

However, the rise in numbers of infections has so far not put additional pressure on hospitals. Health officials attribute this to the fact that Omicron, which currently accounts for over 88 percent of all infections in Switzerland, is less virulent than previous variants. This means that vaccinated and boosted people are much less likely to have severe enough symptoms to require hospitalisation.

READ MORE: ‘Reasonably optimistic’: Are Switzerland’s Covid hotspots cooling down at last?

‘Snow train’ brings skiers to the mountains

On Friday nights during the winter, traffic jams are a common sight on Swiss motorways, as skiers are heading to the mountains for the weekend.

To prevent these bottlenecks, tourism officials and public transport companies are offering alternative means to get to the slopes.

The latest such example is the “VosAlpes Express”, launched on January 15th by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). This line connects Fribourg with Le Châble (VS),  to reach the 4 Vallées resorts of Verbier and Bruson.

This ‘snow train’ is on trial during the ski season and will run until March 27th. If continued, it would become the second SBB convoy after the Verbier Express, launched in December 2019, which connects Geneva to Le Châble

And speaking of Swiss trains…

If you have been reading the news lately, you might have come across our article about the more frequent delays and cancellations within the SBB network.

However, according to new figures released by the company,  91.9 percent of passenger trains in 2021 arrived on time or less than three minutes late. And 98 percent of travellers caught their connections punctually.

Strangely enough, Covid is one of the reasons for on-time arrivals in 2021: pandemic has helped “decongest” the rail system, especially at peak times, when transfers from one train to another are typically longer.

Other factors are improved site planning and better distribution of work throughout the year. There were also fewer technical faults in proportion to the train-kilometres travelled, SBB said.

READ MORE: Why Swiss trains are less punctual — and what is being done about it
 

Switzerland to vote on organ donation

Currently, a person must explicitly consent to organ donation after death. But this system failed to find enough donors, so the parliament adopted the principle of ‘presumed consent’ in October 2021.

This means any adult  resident of Switzerland would automatically be considered an organ donor, unless they have left instructions to the contrary, or relatives oppose the removal on the basis that this respects the presumed wishes of the deceased.

However, opponents of the new law collected 64,000 signatures (14,000 more than required by law) against this revision.

“Such a paradigm shift must be submitted to the people [for vote],” said Franziska Sprecher, member of the referendum committee and professor of law at the University of Bern.

She added that this legislation violates the constitutional right of each person to physical and mental integrity, as well as  to self-determination.

The vote is scheduled for May 15th.

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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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

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]

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