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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.

Swiss companies plan to combine physical office with tele-working. Photo by Maxime on Unsplash
Swiss companies plan to combine physical office with tele-working. Photo by Maxime on Unsplash

Some health experts ‘not optimistic’ about eased Covid restrictions

As the Federal Council lifted some measures this week, with more to be ended on February 17th, some experts call for caution and more patience.

“I’m not so optimistic. There are still a lot of cases right now. We know very well that most infections happen after the peak”, said Silvia Stringhini, head of the Population Epidemiology Unit at Geneva’s University Hospitals (HUG).

“The hospitals remain full and we have to wait a few weeks and allow a little more time to be sure we passed this wave”, she added.

READ MORE: Covid-19 infections: Has Switzerland reached the peak yet?

Switzerland still trails its neighbours in vaccination rate

While announcing the lifting of Covid measures this week, the government said a move is possible thanks to “high level of immunity among the population thanks to vaccination”.

However, in international comparison, Switzerland’s immunisation rate — 68.35 percent — is still below that of its neighbours’ as well as the European Union’s average.

Within the country, rates vary widely from one canton to another, with more than 70 percent of the population fully vaccinated in Basel-City, Basel-Country, Graubünden, Neuchâtel, Ticino and Zurich.

By contrast, Appenzell-Innerrhoden and Schwyz (just over 56 and 59 percent respectively), have the lowest vaccination rates in the country.

Medical tests significantly more expensive in Switzerland

A comparative study of the costs of medical tests in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland shows — no surprise there —  that Switzerland is most expensive.

The government’s price monitor analysed costs of commonly performed blood tests in each of the four countries and found that “all the Swiss prices are higher than abroad”.

And the difference in price is not exactly minimal: “In some cases, the differences are disproportionate. For example, a blood test is 31 times more expensive in a doctor’s office in Switzerland than in Germany”.

The price monitor estimates that by aligning Swiss tariffs with the average level of costs in other countries, potential savings “would exceed one billion francs”.

This saving is all the more important as Swiss insurance companies predict a dramatic increase in health insurance premiums — 5.1 percent per person on average.

READ MORE: ‘Worrying’: Swiss health insurers warn of significant price increases

Future of employment: a mix of home-working and physical office

Now that the obligation to work from home has been lifted, will employees return to the office in droves?

Not necessarily. A number of major Swiss companies, including Roche, Novartis, Swisscom, retail chains Migros and Coop, as well several insurance companies, have said they are maintaining “a good mix” of distance and on-site work, at least for the time being.

Their plan is to “gradually increase face-to-face work” while maintaining “the ability to work from home as often as possible where it makes sense”, said a spokesperson for Helsana insurance.

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 Tuesday

France complains about Swiss jobs, railway strike to disrupt train traffic, and other news from Switzerland on Tuesday.

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

Extension of cross-border home-working agreement creates ‘competitive disadvantage’

On June 29th, agreements concerning taxes and social security contributions of French cross-border employees who are still working from home were extended until October 31st.

Companies in France’s Haute-Savoie region, where most of cross-border workers employed in Geneva come from, are upset, claiming that home-office agreement makes working in Switzerland even more attractive for French workers, at the detriment of local businesses.

According to Christophe Coriou, head of the Haute-Savoie section of French employers, “these agreements accentuate the competitive disadvantage” of French companies compared to Swiss jobs — in terms of salaries, but also lower taxes and other perks.

“By emptying them of their human resources, Geneva penalises companies in Haute-Savoie”,  Coriou  said, adding that “teleworking of cross-border workers, which is perceived as an additional attraction to the salary, accentuates the competitive disadvantage of companies in neighboring France”.

READ MORE: Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland

And speaking of the Swiss-French border…

Railroad strike to affect cross-border train

A strike by French railroad workers scheduled to begin tonight at 7 pm and continue on Wednesday, will impact the Léman Express train, which links Vaud and Geneva with towns in France.

The normal schedule will be disrupted, and alternative transport on sections of the route will be put into place between certain stations.

Inflation has no impact on Swiss real estate prices

Although rising inflation — from 2.6 percent in April to 3.4 percent in June —  has increased the cost of living in Switzerland, property prices have not followed the upward so far, according to  Swiss marketplace group ( SMG) and the real estate consulting firm Cifi.

“Real estate prices do not currently seem to be influenced by the rise in key interest rates and inflation. Condominium apartments raised their prices by 1.1 percent compared to May, while single-family homes showed relative stagnation at 0.3 percent”, SMG said.

Rents are also mostly stable, increasing by only 0.1 percent. The biggest increase in expected to be in energy prices.

READ MORE: Inflation in Switzerland hits 3.4 percent for June

Forget milk and eggs…get fuel at the farm

Switzerland’s first biogas filling station is on a farm in Thayngen, Schaffhausen. The fuel comes from cow dung.

“It comes from manure, liquid manure and organic waste from our farm and other local farms,” said farmer Christian Müller.

While biogas may provide an alternative to regular fuel at a time when shortage may be looming, it is not cheap: a kilo — which corresponds to 1.5 litres — costs almost 2.90 francs, slightly more than fuelling up at the regular pump.

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]