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

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

Switzerland has cleaned up its act in terms of money laundering. Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash
Switzerland has cleaned up its act in terms of money laundering. Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

New Omicron sub-variant ‘definitely present in Switzerland’

A sub-variant of Omicron, the BA.2 (the original variant being the BA.1) is spreading at high speed through several countries.

“We have not yet identified it, because we don’t sequence a lot in Switzerland, but the BA.2 clearly has a propensity to develop”, according to Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva.

To date, even if the new strain appears to be more contagious than BA.1, “there is no indication that it has a different pathological profile”, Flahault said. “They are both Omicron”.

If it turns out to be less dangerous than all the previous ones, “we will obviously be happy about it, but I don’t think we can be happy about the invasion of a new variant”, he added.

READ MORE: Covid: One in ten Swiss infected in past week

Quality of life in nine Swiss cities rated

Various aspects of living in Switzerland’s nine largest cities and their agglomerations have been updated in City Statistics data.

Conducted by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), the project examined categories including housing, health, personal safety, public transport, environmental quality and other factors to rate the quality of life in Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano, St. Gallen, Winterthur and Zurich.

Read a more detailed article in The Local about the report’s findings.

READ MORE: Why have Swiss cities become ‘more liveable’ during the pandemic?

Switzerland remains among the world’s top 10 least corrupted countries

That’s the good news. The not-so-good part is that in terms of corruption, Switzerland slipped in international ratings from third place in 2020 to seventh in 2021, a new ranking by Transparency International indicates.

Overall, however, Switzerland is one of the nations “that actively implements the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention against Corruption”, the study found.

Among the areas where the country could improve, according to Martin Hilti, director of Transparency Switzerland, are the fight against money laundering, legal provisions against lobbying, and protection of whistleblowers.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland actually a tax haven?

Bern to promote the ‘diversity of the population’ in municipal administration

Almost every fourth person living in the capital city is a foreigner; according to figures from the Bern Statistics Office.

The municipal council has now presented a “priority plan for migration and racism”. One of the 25 goals to be implemented by 2025 is to hire more people with a migration background in the urban workforce.

“The administration should act as a role model and reflect the population of the city. That is not the case at the moment”, said municipal spokesperson Franziska Teuscher.

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]