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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

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

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

Petrol will not be in short supply in case of the escalated Russia-Ukraine conflict, Swiss government said. Photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn on Unsplash
Petrol will not be in short supply in case of the escalated Russia-Ukraine conflict, Swiss government said. Photo by sippakorn yamkasikorn on Unsplash

Covid-19: It’s all downhill from here

Both literally and figuratively speaking, the uphill struggle seems to be over for now on the epidemiological front, as it appears that Switzerland has scaled the much talked-about peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of new infections has been dropping steadily since February 2nd, when 41,000 cases had been registered, to 26,761 on Tuesday, data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) indicates.

Not only is it good news regarding infections, but it could see a further relaxation in Covid measures. 

EXPLAINED: Why does Switzerland want to end Covid restrictions?

War in Ukraine could cause some shortages in Switzerland

While diplomatic efforts are underway to prevent the conflict between Russia and Ukraine from escalating further, in Switzerland “measures are being taken to avoid serious shortages which could be triggered by a war”, according to Thomas Grünwald, spokesperson for the Federal Office for National Economic Supply (FONES).

Sugar, rice, edible oils and cereals for bread could be in short supply, along with fertiliser and fodder for livestock, Grünwald said.

In the event that these goods become scarce, the government will dip into “mandatory reserves” Switzerland keeps for emergencies.

And if this measure is not sufficient, rationing might be implemented. As for petrol, Grünwald is convinced that “Russia will continue to honour its delivery contracts”, regardless of how the conflict plays out.

As a last resort, Switzerland would be able to buy gasoline from other countries, especially the United States.

Coffee, opiates and nuclear fuel: What are Switzerland’s ‘strategic stockpiles’?

Swiss experts: Vaccinating small children is ‘neither sensible nor useful’

While children over the age of five can currently be immunised against Covid in Switzerland, no vaccine for under-fives has yet been developed or approved.

Even so, paediatricians can administer ‘off-label’ – i.e. without official approval – vaccines to small kids under certain conditions.

However, health officials advise against this move.

According to Christoph Berger, head of the  the Federal Vaccination Commission, “I would advise parents to wait until we know more” about risks versus benefits of Covid shots in this age group.

Anita Niederer, infectious diseases specialist at the Pediatric Hospital in St. Gallen also says vaccinating children under five “is neither sensible nor useful”.

“The risk of a serious course of Covid in children is minimal. It must be weighed against the use of an unauthorised vaccine with a possibly incorrect dosage and the risk of side effects”, she noted.

READ MORE: Several Swiss cantons start children’s Covid vaccinations

Rents in some Swiss regions are going through the roof

Not only are mortgage rates rising in Switzerland this year, but latest figures show upward trend in the rental  costs as well.

Rents rose 0.3 points to 116.7 points in January, according to the real estate platform Homegate.ch and Zurich Cantonal Bank.

Zug (+3.9 percent) posted the strongest increase over one month, followed by Nidwalden (+1.5 percent).

Increases in Vaud (+0.4 percent), Fribourg and Neuchâtel (+0.5 percent)  and Jura (+ 0.7%) were under 1 percent, while they dropped in Graubünden (-2 percent), Valais and Schaffhasusen (-0.4 percent), and Geneva (-0.1 percent).

Among the cities, the largest increase in rent (+1%) was in Bern.

READ MORE: UPDATE: In which Swiss canton are rents the highest and lowest in 2022?

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 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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