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

Medical marijuana is now legal in Switzerland, expert advice against electric heaters, and other Swiss news in our roundup on Monday.

Today in Switzerland: A roundup of the latest news on Monday
This could be the only environmentally friendly way to keep warm in your house next winter. Photo by Alex Padurariu on Unsplash

Reminder: Ban on fireworks, open fires in parts of Switzerland today

While firework displays as well as bonfires are a traditional part of the National Day celebrations, which the Swiss mark today, this year is different.

Because of the on-going heatwave and the drought it created, a number of cantons and municipalities in Switzerland have either issued total bans or partial restrictions against fireworks and open fires.

This article outlines what bans are in place where:

Where are fireworks banned on Swiss National Day and where are they permitted?

Switzerland legalises medicinal marijuana

Starting today, the Swiss government is authorising the use of cannabis for medical purposes.

This means patients who have a prescription from a doctor  will no longer have to seek special permission from the health ministry to obtain this drug, as was the case previously.

The government “intends to facilitate access to cannabis for medical use for patients”, as the previous process involved “tedious administrative procedures”, the ministry said. “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy.”

Recreational cannabis, however, remains illegal.

READ MORE: Switzerland to legalise medicinal cannabis from Monday

New rules for Covid testing in Zurich

Starting today, new criteria will apply to testing centres and pharmacies in the canton of Zurich.

Nasal swabs for rapid antigen and PCR tests can now only be carried out by personnel with basic medical training, including medical students and pharmacy assistants.

Prior to August 1st, other people were also authorised to perform these tests after receiving appropriate training.

This is why you should not rush to buy electric heaters

As the natural gas shortage is threatening Swiss households next winter, an increasing number of people are purchasing electric heaters for their homes.

In fact, Digitec Galaxus online retailer has recorded an explosion in sales of these devices — an increase of 370 percent in June compared to the same period last year.

However, Michael Frank, director of the Association of Swiss Electric Companies, is warning consumers that this rush is likely to have adverse consequences for the electricity supply.

If the gas heaters are replaced by emergency electric heaters, “electricity consumption will increase massively, when the situation is already tense”, he said.

READ MORE: ‘It could hit us hard’: Switzerland prepares for impending gas shortage

Which cabinet members do Swiss like the most (and least)?

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter got the highest rating from respondents to a new survey by Sotomo research institute published in Swiss media on Sunday.

Economy Minister Guy Parmelin comes second, just ahead of Defense Minister Viola Amherd in third place, Finance Minister Ueli Maurer (4), Interior Minister Alain Berset (5), and Environment Minister Simonetta Sommaruga (6).

Foreign Affairs Minister and the current Swiss president Ignazio Cassis got the lowest score, mostly due to contradictory statements and actions regarding Switzerland’s stance on sanctions against Moscow

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: A roundup of the latest news on Thursday

Swiss forest rangers fear thieves will target trees for firewood, flights to US and Canada back to pre-pandemic levels and other news from Switzerland on Thursday.

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

Swiss forests could be targeted by those looking to stock up on firewood

With Switzerland and other European nations threatened by a shortage of gas or electricity this winter those who have fireplaces have taken to stocking up on supplies fo firewood. 

The chairman of the Federal Electricity Commission, Werner Luginbühl, even recommended on Sunday that people should build up reserves in the event of a disaster scenario.

But as a result forest rangers fear many will take to the forests to illegally build up their supplies.

Neighbouring Germany has already seen people take to the forests to chop down trees for firewood, but so far Switzerland has been spared this kind of phenomenon.

But perhaps not for long.

Thomas Studer, director of a forestry operation in the canton of Solothurn told 20 Minutes: “Wood supplies are melting like snow in the sun.”

He fears there will be a rise in thefts in the coming weeks in the Swiss forests.

He said many walkers were already picking up branches that have fallen to the ground. He urged people to be responsible but warned that thieves would be punished because Swiss forests were not “self-service”.

“It’s theft and therefore punishable,” he said.

Airline tickets from Swiss to US and Canada reach pre-pandemic levels

Airline Edelweiss, a subsidiary of Swiss, has reported that its takings for July exceeded pre-pandemic levels, thanks in part to the renewed interest in flights from Switzerland to the US and Canada.

The carrier suggests it has seen “record” monthly figures for July thanks to the rebound in tourism and travel during the summer season.

In July, Edelweiss carried 304,039 passengers, up 3 percent compared to July 2019, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

Flights to the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic were particularly popular.

Parent company Swiss returned to profit in the first half after two years of losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The company is now aiming to return to operational profitability for the whole of 2022.

Swiss could represent Ukraine diplomatically in Russia

Ukraine has asked Switzerland to represent it diplomatically in Russia, Bern confirmed Wednesday, stressing though that
Moscow would need to accept the arrangement for it to go ahead, AFP reported on Wednesday.

Ever since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Switzerland — renowned for its neutrality — has said it stood ready to provide diplomatic assistance and to serve as a go-between.

The foreign ministry said Wednesday that Ukraine had requested that Switzerland “assume a protecting power mandate” for Kyiv in Russia, confirming a story in the Luzerner Zeitung newspaper.

The foreign ministry explained that such protecting power mandates “allow states to maintain low-level relations and provide consular protection to nationals of the other state concerned”.

“The corresponding negotiations have been completed,” a ministry spokeswoman told AFP in an email.

Switzerland to impose stricter welfare rules for Ukrainian refugees

So far, refugees from Ukraine have received preferential treatment when it comes to social assistance applications, SRF reported. Unlike refugees admitted from other countries, wealthy Ukrainians have also been able to receive social assistance in Switzerland.

However, from now on, their assets in Ukraine will be taken into account during the applications, the report stated. This includes jewellery, cars, but also bank assets or properties in Ukraine.