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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.

Auf wiedersehen, Basel: many people are leaving the city for greener pastures. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels
Auf wiedersehen, Basel: many people are leaving the city for greener pastures. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels

New research: Omicron will not push Swiss hospitals to their limits

Even though it spreads quickly and continues to infect a record number of people, the Omicron variant is unlikely to overburden Switzerland’s healthcare system, a study by the Federal Laboratory for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) indicates.

These findings allow for a cautious optimism: if the infection reproduction rate in Switzerland remains below 2 (this value stands at 1.21 now), intensive care units will not be filled to capacity.

That’s because Omicron, though more transmissible, is less severe than Delta. This means that infected people, especially the vaccinated, are likely to recover by themselves without needing hospital care, Empa found.

READ MORE: ‘Too early to celebrate’: How Omicron is still holding Switzerland in its grip

Rising healthcare costs in Switzerland will drive up premiums

Costs for basic health insurance policy rose by an average of 5.1 percent in 2021, according to the umbrella health insurance organisation Santésuisse.

Cost increases had been moderate over the past three years, but the sharp rise observed in 2021 “threatens the stability of premiums”, Santésuisse said.

The spike is the largest since 2013, and it does not even take into account the costs of Covid vaccinations, which reached 265 million francs.

This would lead to increases in insurance costs which, in turn, will be passed on to consumers.

Service on Léman Express is still disrupted

Numerous Covid-related staff absences are still disrupting the operation of the Léman Express train, commonly used by cross-border workers commuting from France to their jobs in the Geneva area.

Suspended since January 8th, lines L2 and L4 between Coppet (VD) and Annemasse (France) will ultimately remain out of service until February 15th.

In the meantime, RegioExpress trains are covering all the stops between Geneva and Annemasse, though other cancellations or timetable changes are not excluded, according to Swiss Federal Railways.

Basel: The most ‘abandoned’ city in Switzerland

Residents are moving away from Basel more frequently than from other Swiss cities, according to a new study from UBS bank.

But interestingly, while locals want to get out of Basel, more and more foreigners are drawn to the northern Swiss city, UBS said.

Among the reasons cited for the exodus are high rents and too few new construction projects in the city.

A similar phenomenon, though on a lesser scale, has been observed in Bern and Zurich, while suburban and rural areas of Graubünden, Vaud and St. Gallen recorded a “very strong increase in newcomers”, the study found.

If you are one of the people who moved, or are planning to move, away from city into the countryside, please take part in our reader survey.

READ MORE: REVEALED: Which Swiss cities offer the best quality of life?

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

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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