What changes about life in Switzerland in May 2023

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What changes about life in Switzerland in May 2023
MPS will discuss how to evacuate and de-mine Mitholz to clean an old underground ammunition depot built by Swiss army during the World War II. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

From large-scale military manoeuvres to two long-weekend public holidays, this is what is happening in Switzerland in May.


Labour Day

Like many other countries, Switzerland is celebrating Labour Day on May 1st (which has nothing to do with the Labor Day in the United States, which falls on the first Monday of September).

In Switzerland, it is also known as International Workers’ Day and May Day, and is mostly marked by trade unions and left-leaning groups.

It is not, however, a public holiday throughout Switzerland— it is celebrated in some cantons but not in others:

READ ALSO: Here are the Swiss cantons where May 1st is a public holiday

Swiss government to simplify access to medicines

Due to concerns about the shortage of certain medicines in Switzerland, the government is intervening. 

The Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA) wants to facilitate the reimbursement of medicines produced in pharmacies in order to combat bottlenecks.

It will urgently amend the Ordinance on Health Care Services (KLV) and the List of Medicinal Products with Tariff (ALT).

The FDHA has also decided to regulate the remuneration for the partial dispensing of medicinal products in short supply. These changes are intended to improve the supply of medicines in a shortage situation and ensure appropriate patient treatment. The changes will come into force on May 1st.

"The amendments to the CLI and the ALT supplement the measures already implemented to strengthen the security of supply of medicines," said the FDHA.

"If a shortage arises for a medicinal product on the speciality list (SL), pharmacies can charge compulsory health insurance for preparations made from a medicinal product on the SL or its active ingredient."

As The Local has been reporting, dozens of medications have either been in short supply or missing from Swiss pharmacies.

The shortage has affected medicines that can be bought both with and without doctor’s prescription, as well as those only used in hospital settings to manage pain.

Among the meds that are difficult to find right now are Paracetamol pain killers; anti-inflammatory, Aspirin-based drug Aspegic; antibiotic Amoxicillin; Epipen self-injectable adrenaline pens used in cases of severe allergic reactions; anti-anxiety medicine Temesta; as well as children’s cough syrups.

Army training alert

From May 1st to May 9th, the Swiss army will conduct a “large-scale” exercise in French-speaking Switzerland, so don’t be concerned if you see tanks and other military equipment in that region — and it’s all for a good cause.

“This exercise will generate motorised formation movements, helicopter overflights, as well as movements on Lake Geneva and Neuchâtel," according to the Defence Ministry.

"The disturbances will nevertheless be reduced to the strict minimum necessary for the conduct of the exercise."


A Leopard 2 army tank.

Swiss soldiers (here on a Leopard 2 army tank) will participate in a military exercise in May. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

MPs convene for special session

From May 2nd to 4th, the National Council, the lower house of the parliament, will meet to discuss several issues which MPs were not able to debate during the regular Spring session.

Among them, deputes will discuss how to better develop the circular economy in Switzerland —  the principle which involves sharing, reusing, repairing, and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible, instead of throwing the out to purchase new ones.

Another topic to be talked about is the de-mining of the former ammunition depot in Mitholz, in Bernese Alps.

After exploding in 2018, the residents were told they would had to leave the village in 2025, so that explosive material could be safely removed. 


This event on May 7this a perfect example of both grass-roots democracy and Swiss folklore: citizens flock to a town square to vote on a variety of issues by show of hands in an open-air assembly.

This centuries-old tradition is still practiced in two cantons: Appenzell Innerrhoden, where it is scheduled for April 30th, as well as Glarus, to be held on May 7th.

READ ALSO: 'Pure democracy': What is Switzerland's Landsgemeinde (open-air assembly)?

Ascension Day

Thursday May 18th will mark the Ascension Day, which is a national public holiday in Switzerland.  

While the following day, Friday the 19th, is not a public holiday — that is, stores and most other businesses operate as usual — schools and some offices remain closed until Monday.

READ ALSO: When are the Swiss public holidays in your canton in 2023?

Whit Monday

Following closely after Ascension is Whit Monday, a religious observance also called Pentecost, taking place on May 28th. 

It is national holiday, except in the cantons of Neuchâtel, Soloturn, Valais, and Zug.


Also in May: remaining Swiss ski resorts close

While most resorts shut down already, some, located at high altitudes, remain operational.

They will, however, officially end their ski seasons in May:

May 1st: Gemsstock – Andermatt

May 7th: Titlis – Engelberg; Diavolezza/​Lagalb; Glacier 3000 – Les Diablerets; Engstligenalp – Adelboden

May 14th: Crans-Montana



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