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

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

You can reach the 4 Vallées resorts faster by sitting on a train than in a traffic jam. Photo by Kipras Štreimikis on Unsplash
You can reach the 4 Vallées resorts faster by sitting on a train than in a traffic jam. Photo by Kipras Štreimikis on Unsplash

New record: Almost 40,000 new Covid cases reported in Switzerland

The latest figures from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) show that the highest-ever number of new coronavirus infections was reached this week: 39,807.

This spike seems to counter a statement by Virginie Masserey, FOPH’s head of the infection control unit, that Switzerland has likely reached the peak of the pandemic, which implies that cases should be dropping rather than increasing.

However, the rise in numbers of infections has so far not put additional pressure on hospitals. Health officials attribute this to the fact that Omicron, which currently accounts for over 88 percent of all infections in Switzerland, is less virulent than previous variants. This means that vaccinated and boosted people are much less likely to have severe enough symptoms to require hospitalisation.

READ MORE: ‘Reasonably optimistic’: Are Switzerland’s Covid hotspots cooling down at last?

‘Snow train’ brings skiers to the mountains

On Friday nights during the winter, traffic jams are a common sight on Swiss motorways, as skiers are heading to the mountains for the weekend.

To prevent these bottlenecks, tourism officials and public transport companies are offering alternative means to get to the slopes.

The latest such example is the “VosAlpes Express”, launched on January 15th by Swiss Federal Railways (SBB). This line connects Fribourg with Le Châble (VS),  to reach the 4 Vallées resorts of Verbier and Bruson.

This ‘snow train’ is on trial during the ski season and will run until March 27th. If continued, it would become the second SBB convoy after the Verbier Express, launched in December 2019, which connects Geneva to Le Châble

And speaking of Swiss trains…

If you have been reading the news lately, you might have come across our article about the more frequent delays and cancellations within the SBB network.

However, according to new figures released by the company,  91.9 percent of passenger trains in 2021 arrived on time or less than three minutes late. And 98 percent of travellers caught their connections punctually.

Strangely enough, Covid is one of the reasons for on-time arrivals in 2021: pandemic has helped “decongest” the rail system, especially at peak times, when transfers from one train to another are typically longer.

Other factors are improved site planning and better distribution of work throughout the year. There were also fewer technical faults in proportion to the train-kilometres travelled, SBB said.

READ MORE: Why Swiss trains are less punctual — and what is being done about it

Switzerland to vote on organ donation

Currently, a person must explicitly consent to organ donation after death. But this system failed to find enough donors, so the parliament adopted the principle of ‘presumed consent’ in October 2021.

This means any adult  resident of Switzerland would automatically be considered an organ donor, unless they have left instructions to the contrary, or relatives oppose the removal on the basis that this respects the presumed wishes of the deceased.

However, opponents of the new law collected 64,000 signatures (14,000 more than required by law) against this revision.

“Such a paradigm shift must be submitted to the people [for vote],” said Franziska Sprecher, member of the referendum committee and professor of law at the University of Bern.

She added that this legislation violates the constitutional right of each person to physical and mental integrity, as well as  to self-determination.

The vote is scheduled for May 15th.

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]