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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 Thursday

Fewer train connections in Switzerland, cheaper housing in Zurich and the rest of the news roundup on Thursday.

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

Coming soon: more affordable housing in Zurich

Rents are notoriously high in Switzerland’s largest city, but some relief is on the way.

Municipal authorities have successfully negotiated a barter deal with Welti-Furrer real estate company to offer a number of reasonably priced apartments in the Altstetten neighbourhood.

While the amount the flats are renting for was not published, Blick reports that the negotiations yielded “974 square metres of affordable living space to be rented out during 25 years”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How inflation is increasing housing costs in Switzerland

Swiss Federal Railways want to eliminate some train connections

In its draft timetable for 2023, the company (SBB ) proposes to reduce the number of trains circulating between some Swiss cities.

For instance, SBB is planning to do away with the trains departing from Bern at 7:10 am and 4:10 pm, and the departures from Zurich at 6:49 am.

Two morning connections on the Lucerne-Zurich route are also to be eliminated, along with come off-peak-hour trains in other parts on Switzerland.

However, the draft timetable for 2023 also provides for an expansion for the leisure traffic on weekends, including between Geneva and Chur.

New direct connections are also planned on the Romanshorn-Interlaken route. This means that the tourist destinations in the Bernese Oberland will be better linked to eastern Switzerland and the Zurich area.

Swissmedic to Moderna: It’s too early for second boosters

After Paul Burton, chief medical officer of the vaccine manufacturer Moderna, announced in the Swiss media this week that vaccines will have to be administered “year after year”, Switzerland’s drug regulatory body responded that second boosters are not yet planned in the country.

Swissmedic said that neither Moderna nor other vaccine manufacturers have submitted an authorisation request for a second booster in Switzerland.

In order for the process to get off the ground,the Federal Vaccinations Commission (FVC) will also have to issue a recommendation for the booster dose before it is given to all age groups.

For people over 65 or with chronic illnesses, this will likely be possible in the fall, according to FVC head. Christoph Berger.

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

Switzerland wants to speed up the purchase of American fighter jets

Although the decision to buy 36 US-made F-35A planes remains controversial, the Federal Council decided to accelerate the purchase.

With a number of other countries buying these fighter jets as well, the government is concerned there could be delivery delays. “In order for Switzerland to be able to protect its population from air threats beyond 2030, it must receive its first F-35As as early as 2027”, the Federal Council said in a press release.

Under the terms of the agreement, the offer is valid only until March 31st, 2023, but “the deterioration of the security situation prompts the Federal Council to want to fill the gaps in military capabilities quicker than expected”.
 
No specific date is given but it will be before the March deadline, authorities said.

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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