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

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 Thursday
Cars line up at the border to cross into Switzerland from Italy. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Coronavirus cases increasing again

Remember Covid, the virus that made news before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grabbed the world’s attention?

After reaching the peak in January, then falling and stabilising for a while — prompting the Federal Council to scrap nearly all health measures — the number of new infections in on the rise again.

From just over 16,000 on Monday, the number jumped to 23,684 yesterday, according to data from the Federal Office of Public Health.

At the same time, the number of Covid-related ICU admissions has also gone up slightly — from 127 on February 28th to 135 on March 1st.

Depending on the further evolution of the epidemiological situation throughout March, the Federal Council will decide whether to lift remaining Covid rules — masks on public transportation and in health establishments, as well isolation obligation for infected individuals — from the end of the month.

Increased demand for iodine tablets in Switzerland

As the Chernobyl nuclear reactor in Ukraine is now under Russian control, sparking fears of a nuclear catastrophe, Swiss pharmacies are registering higher demand for iodine tablets.

This medication is believed to prevent radioactive iodine from accumulating in the thyroid gland and causing thyroid cancer.

However, Zurich pharmacist Leo Grossrubatscher warns against taking the preparations prophylactically.

“If you now swallow two iodine tablets every day, it can lead to dysfunction of the thyroid gland”, he said.

He recommends following the instructions of the authorities. In the event of an incident and heightened risk, the National Emergency Operations Centre would disseminate instructions to the population on how to behave and what medications to take.

Russians in Switzerland try to ditch their passports

As the EU is now banning banks from dealing with Russian clients, and Swiss authorities are following these rules, Russian nationals in Switzerland are “desperately trying to free themselves from the ever-tightening vice of sanctions. They distance themselves as much as possible from their homeland”, according to a report in Tribune de Genève.

“Many wealthy Russians have multiple passports and have now requested to no longer be registered with the bank as Russian residents, but to be registered at another [EU] domicile”, the manager of one wealth management institution told the newspaper.

Banks, however, remain “very cautious”.

“Each of these residency transfers is reviewed by a compliance committee. People whose names are on the sanctions list have no chance of getting their money back. No bank wants to be censured for violating sanctions”, according to the report.

READ MORE: Sanctions on Russia: Is Switzerland still a neutral nation?

Parliament approves new cross-border commuter agreement with Italy

In future, Switzerland will retain 80 percent of the withholding taxes levied on the income of Italian cross-border commuters. After the Council of States, the National Council also gave the green light for the ratification of a corresponding tax agreement.

This provision applies to persons who work or have worked in the cantons of Ticino, Graubünden or Valais between December 31st, 2018 and the entry into force of the new agreement. These cross-border commuters continue to be subject exclusively to taxation in Switzerland until the end of the tax year 2033.

In return, Switzerland will pay the Italian border municipalities financial compensation amounting to 40 percent of the withholding tax it levies. The governments in Bern and Rome are convinced that the new agreement will significantly improve the regulation that dates back to 1974.

This agreement will apply to some 87,000 people from Italy who are employed in Switzerland.

This link provides more information about taxation of cross-border commuters.

READ MORE: Switzerland: Cross-border workers may be penalised for working from home

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 Thursday

Fewer train connections in Switzerland, cheaper housing in Zurich and the rest of the news roundup on Thursday.

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

Coming soon: more affordable housing in Zurich

Rents are notoriously high in Switzerland’s largest city, but some relief is on the way.

Municipal authorities have successfully negotiated a barter deal with Welti-Furrer real estate company to offer a number of reasonably priced apartments in the Altstetten neighbourhood.

While the amount the flats are renting for was not published, Blick reports that the negotiations yielded “974 square metres of affordable living space to be rented out during 25 years”.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How inflation is increasing housing costs in Switzerland

Swiss Federal Railways want to eliminate some train connections

In its draft timetable for 2023, the company (SBB ) proposes to reduce the number of trains circulating between some Swiss cities.

For instance, SBB is planning to do away with the trains departing from Bern at 7:10 am and 4:10 pm, and the departures from Zurich at 6:49 am.

Two morning connections on the Lucerne-Zurich route are also to be eliminated, along with come off-peak-hour trains in other parts on Switzerland.

However, the draft timetable for 2023 also provides for an expansion for the leisure traffic on weekends, including between Geneva and Chur.

New direct connections are also planned on the Romanshorn-Interlaken route. This means that the tourist destinations in the Bernese Oberland will be better linked to eastern Switzerland and the Zurich area.

Swissmedic to Moderna: It’s too early for second boosters

After Paul Burton, chief medical officer of the vaccine manufacturer Moderna, announced in the Swiss media this week that vaccines will have to be administered “year after year”, Switzerland’s drug regulatory body responded that second boosters are not yet planned in the country.

Swissmedic said that neither Moderna nor other vaccine manufacturers have submitted an authorisation request for a second booster in Switzerland.

In order for the process to get off the ground,the Federal Vaccinations Commission (FVC) will also have to issue a recommendation for the booster dose before it is given to all age groups.

For people over 65 or with chronic illnesses, this will likely be possible in the fall, according to FVC head. Christoph Berger.

READ MORE: Reader question: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

Switzerland wants to speed up the purchase of American fighter jets

Although the decision to buy 36 US-made F-35A planes remains controversial, the Federal Council decided to accelerate the purchase.

With a number of other countries buying these fighter jets as well, the government is concerned there could be delivery delays. “In order for Switzerland to be able to protect its population from air threats beyond 2030, it must receive its first F-35As as early as 2027”, the Federal Council said in a press release.

Under the terms of the agreement, the offer is valid only until March 31st, 2023, but “the deterioration of the security situation prompts the Federal Council to want to fill the gaps in military capabilities quicker than expected”.
No specific date is given but it will be before the March deadline, authorities said.

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]