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

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

The village of Bursins is perched above sloping vineyards. Photo: Commune de Bursins
The landscape surrounding the Swiss village of Bursins.

Lifting of Covid restrictions: health official urges caution

Starting today, Switzerland is lifting the obligation to work from home, as well as the quarantine requirement for close contacts of infected people.

The government eased these measures despite soaring infection rates because hospitalisations and ICU admissions remain low, which experts believe is due to the less virulent nature of the Omicron variant.

However, according to Patrick Mathys, head of the crisis management section at the Federal Office of Public Health, an overload of Switzerland’s healthcare system “is not completely excluded, even if Omicron is less dangerous than previous variants.

He also warned that the peak of the Omicron wave has not yet been reached and a rapid relaxation of the main measures could cause infections to rise again.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Swiss to end quarantine and working from home obligation from Wednesday

National alarm system to be tested

Don’t be scared if you hear a loud siren this afternoon.

The general alarm signal will be tested nationwide at 1:30 pm.

This is somewhat of a Swiss tradition as this test is carried out each year on the first Wednesday in February. The cantons will also broadcast a notification on the Alertswiss channels.

The signal – a steady oscillating siren lasting one minute – is intended  to alert the population of an impending emergency or disaster. 

Also, from 2:15 to 3 pm, the “water alert“ signal is tested in areas that are close to dams.

According to Federal Office for Civil Protection, “The general public is not required to respond in a particular way or take protective measures, but is simply requested in advance to excuse the inconvenience caused by the noise of the sirens”.

The new SwissPass card poses problems for skiers

As winter holidays are beginning in various cantons and more people will be heading for the mountains in coming weeks, some users have had problems with their SwissPass.

The red, credit-card sized pass can be used not only to purchase public transportation tickets, but also as a ski pass.

Sample SwissPass. Image by Swiss Federal Railways

However, a number of skiers have reported that they got stranded at ski lift turnstiles, as their SwissPass cards were not recognised by the system.

According to Alliance Swisspass spokesperson Thomas Ammann, up to 4,000 customers have been inconvenienced so far by the technical problems with the card.

If this happens to you, report the problem and request a new card by emailing Swiss Pass Alliance at  [email protected] or call +41 31 359 22 40.

Two villages join the ranks of Switzerland’s most beautiful locations

Two new members have joined the circle of the most beautiful villages in Switzerland: Grüningen, in the Zurich Oberland region and Bursins, a wine-growing hamlet in Vaud.

The two were added to the existing roster by the  “The most beautiful villages in Switzerland” association.

Grüningen has earned its place among the best of the best because it is a “charming countryside village, with three museums, the botanical garden (unique in its kind) and the varied natural landscape”.

As for Bursins, “the quiet wine-growing village is surrounded by beautiful vineyards and offers magnificent views over Lake Geneva.

You can find out more about the association and some of its villages here:

Switzerland’s ten most beautiful villages you have to visit

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]