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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.

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

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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