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TODAY IN SWITZERLAND

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

Swiss healthcare too expensive, Covid boosters too slow and plenty more in the morning roundup.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Tuesday
Will Switzerland be late in administering second booster shots? Photo by Richard Juilliart / AFP

Switzerland ‘too slow’ with second Covid booster

While other countries have already started to administer second booster shots, Swiss health authorities are dragging their feet, not having even issued a recommendation for the fourth dose yet.

This lassitude is sparking concern that the country will be unprepared when new Covid variants emerge in Switzerland, as they already have in other parts of the world.

“Switzerland was lagging behind last fall when it came to administering the booster, because we were ill-prepared. This must not happen again”, according to MP Ruth Humbel, a member of the National’s Social Security and Public Health Committee.

As for Andreas Faller, a lawyer specialising in health law, the government must learn from mistakes made during previous waves, when it often acted too slowly in enforcing various measures.

“I have the impression that for the Federal Office of Public Health the pandemic has subsided, and we are not preparing for a possible new wave in the fall”, he noted.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Is Switzerland gearing up for a fourth Covid jab?

Status S for Ukrainians: Is it racism?

While Ukrainian refugees are granted a special S status giving them rights to employment, free healthcare and other perks, the same benefits are not extended to refugees from other nations.

A group of them met in Bern on Monday and expressed their disappointment at not receiving the same advantages as their Ukrainian counterparts.

“We do not understand why Switzerland does not treat all persons in need of protection and victims of war in the same way”, they said, pointing out that the S status should also be applied to asylum seekers from other war-torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan.

OPINION: Criticism of Swiss refugee response lacks perspective

“This unequal treatment leaves us perplexed, sad and raises questions. If it is not discriminatory or racist, how can we qualify it?”, the group noted.

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter has already commented on these remarks when they were raised previously, responding that Ukrainians present an exceptional case, as they are — unlike some other asylum seekers —  mostly women and young children, which means they are likely to return to their partners when the conflict is over. 

Swiss patients pay too much for medical care

Some doctors and hospitals in Switzerland overcharge their patients by either invoicing services that have not been provided or billing more than is necessary.

This practice is a problem particularly as health insurance premiums are expected to increase significantly in 2023 to reflect rising health care costs.

READ MORE: Why Swiss health premiums are set to rise — and what you can do about it

Matthias Müller, spokesperson for health insurance umbrella organisation Santésuisse, confirmed that certain doctors charge too much.

“We see this problem particularly in the outpatient care, where doctors can choose from numerous tariff positions”.

However, proving excessive charges is difficult, according to Felix Schneuwly, a health industry expert at Comparis price comparison service.

That’s because “patients do not sign a ‘work report’ for the medical services rendered”, so health insurance companies cannot check whether a service was provided at all and whether it was indeed necessary, Schneuwly said, explaining that an insurance company can only verify whether the quantities and costs of the services on the invoices comply with the law.

How much would you pay for Alain Berset’s tie?

The light blue tie that the Health Minister wore on March 16th, 2020, when the Federal Council declared a state of emergency is being auctioned for a good cause: to raise money for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

So far it’s making a killing: the highest bid so is…35,000 francs!

Who knew? A 35,000-franc-tie. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Ever the salesman, Berset described the tie as a “banal accessory for a situation that was not”.

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 Wednesday

Decision on booster vaccines, and more Covid cases: this and other news from Switzerland on Wednesday

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

Second boosters: not before fall

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Tuesday that second booster shots for general population will be available in the fall, “when the risk for individuals and the burden on the healthcare system will be greatest”.

 Right now, those with a weakened immune system and people over the age of 80 are the only ones eligible for free vaccines.

However, people who are travelling to countries where proof of up-to-date immunisation is required but whose Covid certificates are no longer valid, can receive the fourth dose but upon request have to pay for the shot.

READ MORE: Reader question: When will Switzerland authorise second Covid booster shots?

Covid cases continue to climb

While health authorities are stalling with making second boosters available to general public, the number of coronavirus cases announced by FOPH on Tuesday in its weekly report has increased by 40 percent in a span of seven days.

Some 46,025 new contaminations were detected in the week between June 28th and July 5th, up from 33,108 cases the week before, and 24,704 three weeks ago.

The steadily growing rate of infections is in line with epidemiologists’ warnings about the rapid spread of the highly contagious Omicron sub-variants.

READ MORE : ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Shopping tourism: Fewer Swiss buy in Germany

Even though the euro is at near parity with the franc, and purchasing goods abroad is now cheaper, up to 30 percent fewer Swiss shop in Germany now than prior to Covid pandemic.

The reasons for this trend reversal are unclear, but German shopkeepers are unhappy.

“This is causing headaches for German merchants in the border area. The decline in the number of Swiss shoppers is dramatic”, according to Claudius Marx, general manager of the Hochrhein-Bodensee Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“The Swiss still have significantly higher purchasing power than our northern neighbours. They could also combine the shopping trip with filling up the car. In Germany, petrol and diesel are cheaper than in Switzerland”, he added.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can I leave Switzerland to fill up my car in Germany?

Switzerland’s population is nearing 9 million

At the start of 2022, 8,736,500 people lived in Switzerland. Six months later, at the beginning of July, 100,000 more were registered, government data shows.   

This growth spurt is due mainly to foreigners: Out of 100,00 new arrivals, 60,000 are people who have fled Ukraine, in addition to 32,700 immigrants from other countries and 6,800 asylum seekers.

In all, 200,000 more people, mostly foreigners, could be living living in Switzerland in the near future, swelling the number of residents to nearly 9 million.

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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