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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Why Switzerland is one of the safest destinations for travel this summer

A new survey ranks Switzerland in the second place among European countries in terms of safe travel this summer. Here’s why.

Why Switzerland is one of the safest destinations for travel this summer
It's beautiful but also safe for tourists. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Coronavirus pandemic notwithstanding, Switzerland gets high scores as a safe tourist destination this summer.

This is the finding of a study carried out by a French tour operator, which rated 28 European countries based on health, security, homicide rate, robberies and fatal traffic accidents.

The survey gathered data from sources such as EuroHealth Consumer Index, Global Peace Index, and the EU Statistical Office Eurostat.

Based on the five criteria used in the survey, Switzerland ranks in the second place behind Norway.

Neighbour Austria ranks in the seventh place, Germany in the 10th, Italy in the 20th, and France in the 22nd.

However, when examined individually, Switzerland does better in some categories than in others.

For instance, it is in the first place in terms of health, and in the second for security and road safety.

Switzerland is in first place for health services – I mean look how fast the ambulances are! Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

But, it drops to the ninth place for thefts and to the sixth for homicides.

This is not the first study that has given Switzerland a thumbs up in terms of safety.

In 2019, a travel security risk services company International SOS, ranked Switzerland as “one the safest countries in all categories, including infectious diseases, political unrest, and road safety”.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: Which Swiss cities have the highest crime rates?

How Covid safe is Switzerland?

The study did not however take into account specific metrics related to the Covid pandemic. 

In the first wave of the pandemic in June 2020, Switzerland was found to be the world’s safest country for coronavirus because of the resilience of its economy and “the careful ways in which it is attempting to relax lockdown and economic freezing mandates without sacrificing public health and safety”.

Since then, while Switzerland’s management of the pandemic has been mixed, numbers are again low and the country is accepting visitors from most parts of the globe. 

Travel: What documents do tourists need to visit Switzerland?

As at July 14th, Covid numbers are relatively low, although they have been on the rise recently due to the more contagious Delta variant. 

As the Local reported on Tuesday, the variant accounted for 77.5 percent of the total cases, according to data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

At the same time, the number of new daily infections reported by FOPH on Tuesday stands at 483, triple what it was at the beginning of July.

READ MORE: Delta variant responsible for nearly 80 percent of new cases in Switzerland

Switzerland relaxed Covid measures on June 26th, both domestically and by allowing international arrivals. 

More information on the current Covid rules in place in Switzerland is available here

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How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is a perfect place to go hiking with its thousands of marked trails. However, hundreds of people get into accidents while trekking every year, and some die. Here is what you need to know to be safe.

How to keep safe and avoid problems when hiking in the Swiss Alps

The Swiss mountains are one of the country’s most notable and most visited sites. There are activities to enjoy during all seasons and hiking the Swiss Alps is something that people of all ages enjoy in the winter or summer months.

However, mountain rescuers are called every year to help people in emergencies. Last year, there were 1,525 cases of hikers in distress – a number higher than in any other type of sport. In 2021, there were only 500 emergency calls from skiers and 342 made by mountain bikers.

READ ALSO: Why getting rescued in the Swiss Alps could cost you thousands

Bruno Hasler, who is responsible for mountain emergency statistics at the Swiss Alpine Club SAC, says that many people overestimate themselves and that is dangerous. “The hikers need to be better informed. The authorities must inform people as well as possible about the dangers of mountain hiking”, he told public broadcaster SRF.

What are the main recommendations when hiking?

The first recommendation is to make a realistic self-assessment. Mountain hiking is an endurance sport and people planning on doing a trek should avoid time pressure and choose their trails and times well.

In that sense, it is essential to make careful route planning and evaluate the length, altitude, difficulty and current conditions (including weather forecast) of the trek. Thunderstorms, snow, wind and cold significantly increase the risk of accidents.

Don’t forget to plan alternative routes and keep emergency rescue numbers on hand (REGA 1414 and the european emergency number 112).

READ ALSO : Should you buy supplemental health insurance in Switzerland?

Take practical equipment for your hiking conditions and the proper footwear too. In a backpack, take as little as possible but as much as necessary, aiming to keep it light but full of valuable things such as sun protection, a first aid kit, rescue blanket, water and a mobile phone.

The most common cause of accidents is falling because of slipping or tripping, so be sure to walk on marked paths (reducing the risk of getting lost) and keep a sure foot and safe pace.

Don’t forget to take regular breaks not only for eating and drinking (necessary to maintain performance and concentration) but also to enjoy the landscape.

Be responsible for the children in the group, treks that require long-lasting concentration are not suitable for children and in passages with risk of falling, and one adult can only look after one child, according to the Swiss Alpine Club. Small groups are the best for hiking because they ensure mutual assistance and flexibility at the same time.

Rega on a rescue mission in the Swiss Alps. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The PACE checklist

The so-called PACE checklist helps hikers keep track of the most important things. PACE means plan, assess, consider, and evaluate, Swiss Alpine Club SAC says.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Plan your route and duration and give yourself extra time and alternatives. Inform someone else about your trip. Assess if the hike is suitable for you, and do not undertake challenging trips yourself. Consider if you have what you need for the walk, like sturdy hiking shoes, protection against harsh weather and food and water supplies.

Finally, evaluate while hiking. See if you are too tired, keep eating, drinking and resting regularly and pay attention to the time you need and any changes in the weather. Do not leave the marked trail and turn back in time if necessary.

What to do in case of an accident?

If there are accidents during your hike, you should first provide life-saving help to anyone seriously injured and then call emergency services. Do not leave the wounded alone and do not put yourself at risk.

Mark the accident area clearly and give signals. The international emergency call sign consists of giving a sign (such as a flashing light or waving a cloth) six times a minute and then repeating it after one minute.

READ ALSO: Rega: What you need to know about Switzerland’s air rescue service

For helicopters, holding both your arms up (making a V shape) signals that you need help, while keeping one arm up and another down (forming a diagonal line with your arms) means you do not need help.

If you see animals, keep your distance and do not disturb them. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

What do I do if I see animals on my hike?

It’s common to find animals while hiking in the Swiss alps, especially cows in the pastures. A cow will protect their calves, so keep your distance. Do not touch the animals, and keep dogs on a leash.

Slowly and carefully move around at a distance and continue your trek.

You may occasionally find herds that dogs protect. It’s possible to inform yourself online in advance to find out where these herds are and avoid them. Still, remember that packs and their guardian dogs should be disturbed as little as possible. So stay calm and keep your distance – avoid any brisk movements.

If you are hiking with your dog, put it on a leash and slowly and calmly detour around the livestock.

If a guard dog barks and runs in your direction, try to stay calm and give the dog time to assess the situation. Stay far from the herd, don’t run or make sudden movements. You can use a stick to keep the dog at a distance by stretching them out, but don’t raise it or wave it around.

Once the dogs have accepted your presence and stopped barking, continue at a slow pace on your way.

Don’t forget: the Swiss rescue number is 1414 or you can also reach them using the European emergency number 112.

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