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Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Monday

Find out what's going on today in Switzerland with The Local's short roundup of the news.

Four-day work week with full salary is becoming a reality in Switzerland. Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash
Four-day work week with full salary is becoming a reality in Switzerland. Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash

Consultation with cantons about new Covid measures ends today

Cantonal authorities have been mulling over the Federal Council’s proposals aiming to curb the spread of Omicron variant. The consultation period concludes today.

Among measures put forth by the government on January 12th is the extension of the validity period of measures currently in place until March 31st. At the same time, validity of the Covid certificate would be reduced from 365 to 270 days to be in line with the EU rules.

Further measures, including tighter mask regulations and a change in testing rules, are also on the agenda.

If cantons agree, the Federal Council wants to introduce these measures from February 1st.

Another decision announced on January 12th, shortening the quarantine from 10 to five days, is already enacted.

READ MORE: Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Omicron: Reliability of antigen tests ‘severely decreased’

There has been some evidence lately that rapid antigen tests are not sensitive enough to accurately detect all Omicron-related infections.

This is confirmed by a study at University of Geneva.

According to the university’s  infection specialist , Isabella Eckerle, an antigen test is not always reliable in the initial contamination phase. “For some rapid tests, it appears to be the case more often with Omicron, as shown by early data from our lab and others as well”, she said.

“Many tests do not even detect very positive samples, whereas patients from whom the samples were taken were probably highly contagious”, Eckerle pointed out, adding that flawed tests give infected people a false sense of security.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) confirmed  that “no test is perfect”.

In the consultation documents FOPH sent to the cantons, it refers to “isolated studies” which found the reliability of rapid antigen tests for Omicron “severely decreased”.

PCR tests are much more accurate, experts say.

Swiss Health Minister ‘trivialises Covid,’ epidemiologist says

In a recent remark, Health Minister Alain Berset compared the course of Omicron infection to that of flu.

The comment angered epidemiologist Andreas Cerny. “Berset shot himself in the foot”, he said, as “Omicron is much more contagious than flu and infects more people. The sheer number of cases puts a heavy burden on the health system and to a completely different extent than, say, a flu epidemic”.

Cerny also added that by playing down the potential risks of Omicron, the Health Minister  “torpedoed the booster campaign, which plays a central role in relieving the burden on the healthcare system, as well as maintaining the infrastructure and basic services”.

Berset defended his flu comparison, stating he “made the statement in relation to people with immunity. For people with low or no immunity, the virus still poses a risk that should not be underestimated.”

READ MORE: Omicron officially dominant in Switzerland

A four-day work week becoming a reality in Switzerland

The concept of working Monday through Thursday but being paid for a full five-day week may seem unfeasible, but this is already becoming a reality.

While a four-day week at full salary is not yet widespread, a handful of Swiss employers have introduced this system.

Could this work model catch on a wider scale?

According to Gudela Grote, professor of psychology and work organisation at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), such a system would be “more complex [to implement]  in a large company than in a small one.”

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 Wednesday

Another case of monkeypox found in Switzerland, Covid boosters could no longer be free, and other Swiss news in our daily roundup.

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

Second case of monkeypox found in Switzerland

The virus was detected in a person in Geneva, who was contaminated “during a trip abroad”, the canton’s Health Department has confirmed.

It added that the infected person “is currently in isolation, his general condition is good and does not currently require hospitalisation”.

Contact tracing is underway to find people who have been exposed to the sick person, the canton said.

This is the second known case of monkeypox in Switzerland, following the one detected in Bern on Saturday in a person who also contracted the virus while travelling abroad.

Globally, about 90 cases have been detected so far.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What is monkeypox and what is Switzerland doing about it?

Health authorities: Travellers should pay for Covid boosters themselves

According to newest recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), people travelling abroad who need second booster doses must pay for the shots themselves.

As the fourth vaccine dose is currently recommended only for people with a severely weakened immune system, everyone outside of this group will be charged as yet undefined fee.

Until now, all the Covid vaccinations had been free of charge.

The proposal was sent to the cantons for consultation until June 1st. If agreed on, the Federal Council will adjust the Epidemics Ordinance accordingly on June 10th.

Additional trains in service over the  Ascension and Pentcoast weekends

Road traffic is typically very heavy during the two holiday weekends, falling this year on May 26th – 29th and  June  4th – 6th, respectively.

For travellers who prefer to take the train during this busy period, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), is “significantly expanding” its service towards Ticino, one of the most popular destinations for public holiday weekends.

“There will be numerous additional trains. We will also be increasing the number of seats available on regular trains”, including between Zurich/Basel and Ticino via the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the company announced.

Switzerland and NATO want ‘closer ties’

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg reassured Swiss Defense Minister Viola Amherd on Tuesday that the military alliance would maintain a strong partnership with Switzerland.

He said he is “open to closer ties”— a message that “was very important because I want a close collaboration” too, Amherd responded.

Even though some Swiss politicians are pushing for a greater degree of NATO integration due to uncertainties related to war in Ukraine, Switzerland cannot become a member because of its longstanding policy of neutrality.

Switzerland has nevertheless a relationship with the organisation through its Partnership for Peace (PfP) program, and also participates in military exercises with NATO related to cyberattacks.

“We are studying the question” of how Switzerland can further its collaboration with NATO without compromising its neutrality, Amherd said.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why isn’t Switzerland in NATO

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]