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Jürg Billwiller, a suicide assistant with Exit, takes the train to Bern to oversee the last moments of one patient's life.
3 min
The numbers of Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations in Switzerland are high but stabilising. While there's hardly any corona related deaths... The numbers of Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations in Switzerland are high but stabilising. While there's hardly any corona related deaths among young people, the mortality rate of people over 65 has strongly increased, putting crematorium staff under big pressure. The figures in this report are based on numbers from the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH, to whom all doctors and laboratories in Switzerland are obliged to report their cases. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
1 min
As the pandemic continues, should children be taught outside to minimise risk of infection? The Danes think it’s a good idea. 20% of their schools... As the pandemic continues, should children be taught outside to minimise risk of infection? The Danes think it’s a good idea. 20% of their schools have opted for open-air education. Now it’s starting to catch on in French-speaking Switzerland too where teachers learn all about it at special courses. Switzerland has no plans to follow neighbouring Austria in closing all schools to curb coronavirus cases. The Swiss authorities believe children are not drivers of the pandemic, although research on this is divided. In any case, teaching children in the forest not only has health benefits, according to their educators. They say it also nurtures concentration, cooperation, reflection and communication between the students. Swiss public television, RTS, filmed some outdoor lessons in Neuchâtel and Geneva.
59 s
Koyo Kouoh speaks about Switzerland and her upbringing in the Zurich of the 1980s and 1990s.
4 min
As Covid-19 spreads among the world's population, so too does disinformation about the virus. People in some countries are more receptive to fake news than others. Researcher Edda Humprecht at the University of Zurich has looked into the issue. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
3 min
The Swiss have a reputation for being rather humourless. But are they just misunderstood? The Swiss have a reputation for being rather humourless – a stereotype many say is unfounded. How much is comedy linked to culture, politics and language that perhaps isn’t understood by outsiders? "Witzerland", an exhibition at the Swiss National Museum in the central canton of Schwyz, runs until the end of January 2021 and sheds light on what tickles Swiss ribs. ("Witz" means "joke" in German.) It features TV clips, artwork and cartoons from humorists such as Patrick Chappette, a cartoonist for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times for 20 years, and performances from stage giants such as the clown Grock, at one time the highest-paid music hall and variety star. Historical jokes and puns about Swiss society and neutrality feature alongside blonde gags and cracks about the foibles of wives and husbands, as can be found in any culture. Curator Pia Schubiger says that if some people find them offensive, it’s a chance to talk about where the boundaries of humour lie.
4 min
The 50th anniversary of the women’s football league in Switzerland is being marked with a special exhibition in Zurich. It's the 50th anniversary of the women’s football league in Switzerland, and there's a special exhibition at Zurich's football club to celebrate women's participation in the sport. The first-ever women’s football club was founded in Zurich in 1968. Soon afterwards, other female football clubs began springing up across the country. A national women’s league was formed in 1970 and the first championship took place the same year. The Zurich team was eventually renamed FC Zurich Ladies in 2008. (SRF/FC Zurich museum/swissinfo.ch)
2 min
A new contact tracing app is now available for newer smartphones. If a user tests positive for coronavirus, everyone with whom that person was in... A contact tracing app is now available in Switzerland for newer smartphones to help tackle Covid-19. If a person tests positive for coronavirus, everyone with whom that person was in contact in previous days – within two metres and for more than 15 minutes – is alerted via the app to isolate themselves and get tested. SwissCovid was developed by the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Lausanne and Zurich. Smartphones use Bluetooth technology to communicate with each another anonymously. The system is decentralised with contacts and data stored on devices rather than on an external server. It is the first in the world to use the OS updates from Apple and Google. But people with older phones won't be able to access the app. You need an iPhone 6s or a more recent model, or an Android 6. The larger mobile phone providers Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise say approximately every fifth smartphone will be excluded. There’s no exchange with tracing apps from other countries although this is technically feasible.
39 s
Swiss public Television, SRF, spoke to five young people about their experiences with racism in Switzerland. In light of recent ‘Black Lives Matter’ demonstrations across the world after the killing of a black man by police in the United States, Swiss society has been re-examining its treatment of people from ethnic minority backgrounds. How does everyday racism affect people of colour in Switzerland? Swiss public Television, SRF, spoke to five young people who had experienced racism or discrimination of some form because of the colour of their skin. A recent study by the Federal Statistical Office showed how widespread this kind of discrimination is in Switzerland. The figures were collected in 2018 and show that 28% of Swiss say they have experienced racism. In the survey, 24%of respondents had experienced discrimination, 11% suffered racially-motivated psychological violence and 3% were victims of racially-motivated physical violence. The study also revealed where these incidents took place, the majority of them were in a working environment. The counselling network for victims of racism is made up of 22 cantonal offices and gives help and advice in cases of racial discrimination. The network's experts monitored 352 cases last year and collected data on the motives behind the discrimination. In 145 cases, xenophobia was the motive, in 132, racism against black people and islamophobia was the main factor in 55 incidents.
4 min
After Bern's cantonal government refused to provide schools with free sanitary products, one town is going its own way. Starting this autumn, public school restrooms in Tavannes, canton Bern, will be equipped with dispensers for free sanitary pads. As there were none on the market, the twelve metal cases will be custom made by a local company. School social worker Roubina Kouyoumdjian managed to convince both municipal and school authorities. "When I went knocking on the door to broach the subject, I had no idea what a welcome I was going to receive," she told Swiss public television, RTS. "There was a kind of taboo. We didn't talk about it, we had never talked about it, and suddenly it was obvious. In a few minutes it was settled and the case was approved," said Hans-Ruedi Gasser, the director of Tavannes's secondary school. Long-lasting political reticence The demand for free sanitary products had already come up in 2019, when a young citizen submitted the idea on the engage.ch platform, during the "Change Switzerland" campaign. Parliamentarian Samira Marti (Social Democratic Party) liked the idea and filed a motion, which the Federal Council rejected in August 2019. A couple of months later, politicians Tamara Funiciello and Maurane Riesen made a similar request at the cantonal level. They wanted all schools in canton Bern to be equipped with free dispensers. This motion was rejected as well. If not free then cheaper Meanwhile, tampons and pads continue to be taxed as luxury goods in Switzerland. A 7.7% VAT is applied to these products, whereas other items such as flower arrangements, pesticides and cat litter are taxed at 2.5%. Former parliamentarian and Social Democrat Jacques-André Maire filed a motion in December 2018 asking for sanitary products to be considered as necessities, and thus eligible for the 2.5% VAT. The House of Representatives approved his motion in March 2019; the Senate must still vote on it, but it's not on its agenda yet. In the meantime, the Federal Council is planning to partially revise its VAT law, which could include a tax reduction on sanitary products. This would automatically approve the motion. Bottom-up versus top-down Tavannes is in a pioneering role, and other municipal and cantonal governments now have the chance to follow suit. Motions for free sanitary products in schools have been filed in Moutier, canton Bern, as well as in cantons Geneva and Vaud. Scotland is the only country that requires schools to provide free sanitary products. In other countries such as Kenya, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Pakistan, these items are tax-free.
2 min
Swiss couple Helene and Thomas Stohr run their own bakery in Massachusetts. Every day, they produce an array of Swiss and European treats. Swiss couple Helene and Thomas Stohr run their own bakery in Massachusetts. Every day, they produce an array of Swiss and European treats, including croissants, jelly doughnuts and braided bread. From a young age, the Stohrs dreamed of seeing the world, so they left Lucerne for North America 20 years ago. Thomas, a professional baker, worked in Canada and the US for various eateries, including Mövenpick, while Helene looked after their sons Tobias and Nicolas. The push to launch their own bakery came from the boys, who missed homestyle crusty bread. As orders increased, the Stohrs eventually converted their spare room and watched the business expand like fresh dough. Today, the whole family contributes to the success of swissbäkers. They now have three stores in the greater Boston Area, including the central bakery café complete with a Swiss-themed playground. The warm-hearted Stohrs refer to their employees as “guest huggers”, although Covid-19 has forced them to adapt their business in some creative ways.
3 min
Life is slowly returning to normal in Switzerland: there are very few new Covid-19 infections and people are no longer being fined for ignoring... Life is slowly returning to normal in Switzerland: there are very few new Covid-19 infections and people are no longer being fined for ignoring social distancing rules. But the danger is still out there for high risk patients such as Sandra Lutz and Reto Weibel. They’ve both had organ transplants, and Reto also suffers from cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that mostly affects the lungs. They told their stories via Skype and phone.
4 min
Zoos are closed in Switzerland for the time being due to coronavirus, but that doesn’t stop children at home from learning about them. Zoos may be closed in Switzerland for the time being, but that doesn’t stop children at home from learning how the animals are getting along. The Bern Animal Park has published a series of videos and learning materials for children being schooled at home, under the heading dählhölzli@home.⁠ Via live webcam, youngsters can watch how tadpoles grow into frogs. They can go on a virtual visit to see the bears and tortoises with the zoo educator, Peter Schlup. There are also watch-and-learn videos about flamingo behaviour for older kids. ⁠ During the lockdown, zoo staff have had to provide more stimulation for the monkeys, who miss their human visitors. Changes in animal behaviour in the absence of the public are also featured in the digital package.⁠ As the zoo belongs to the city of Bern, it has a teaching mandate and works closely with the directorate of education and schoolteachers to develop learning materials.⁠
1 min
Thanks to a shipwreck, this man was born in Louisiana rather than Switzerland. As a child, John Geiser III was surrounded by Swiss people in his grandfather’s adopted city of New Orleans. After the Second World War had ended, John was a young adult when his father took him to Switzerland for the first time. We met John in June 2019, when he gave us a tour of New Orleans. Over the course of a hot and humid morning – mainly on foot – he energetically showed us the traces of Swissness dotted throughout this city famous for its music and mardi gras. John has served as the Honorary Swiss Consul in the US state of Louisiana, and he is still an active member of the Swiss American Society of New Orleans. In fact, nobody in the club has been a member for as long as he has. Swiss in New Orleans Even as far back as 1718, there were Swiss citizens living in New Orleans, Louisiana. Many were workers and mercenary soldiers, such as the 210 lumberjacks sent to clear forest land to make way for the new city. According to the historical records of the Swiss American Society of New Orleans, Swiss soldiers were so well respected that France’s Governor Kerelec wrote, “The Swiss behave exceedingly well… I would prefer reducing the French troops and augmenting the Swiss, such is the superiority of the latter over the former”. In 1829, Switzerland opened its third US consulate in New Orleans.
5 min
With many travel restrictions and planes stuck on the ground, summer 2020 is the time to rediscover your own country. Summer 2020 is the time to rediscover your own country. With many travel restrictions and planes stuck on the ground, the tourism sector is now focusing on local guests. Reservations by Swiss residents already made up over 45% of overnight stays in 2019. The proportion could increase this year, as a third of Swiss have already changed their holiday plans. “This could be interesting for the tourism sector, as local guests are usually more spread out than the international tourists, who usually focus on famous locations,” said Switzerland Tourism spokeswoman Véronique Kanel. During a press conference held on Monday, Eric Scheidegger, head of the economic policy directorate at the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), said that demand and sales development in the tourism sector could only be expected to completely return to normal in 2022.
1 min
Production has been stepped up at a company in eastern Switzerland that makes breathing machines. Production has been stepped up at a company in eastern Switzerland that makes breathing machines, as health services struggle to help a growing number of coronavirus patients. Switzerland is one of the countries most affected by the virus, with more than 17,800 positive tests and more than 488 deaths. There are 82 intensive care units, which have a total of 950-1,000 beds; around 850 of these are equipped with respirators. The army has around 100 additional respirators and has ordered 900 more. Switzerland is not alone in depending on this equipment to support the lives of people with serious breathing difficulties. The Hamilton respirators made in Ems, canton Graubünden, are shipped all over the world. Around 100 new machines leave the factory every day. This is a portrait of Laura Werth, one of Hamilton's dedicated employees, who works seven days a week to help out in this crisis. Her job is to calibrate the respirators. "I try to keep cool and calm in this situation, not to panic," she told Swiss public television, SRF. "And every day I come to work in the knowledge that I’m doing something good."
1 min
People who can work from home have shared videos on social media to show how they are coping with doing their job from inside their own four walls. Most offices in Switzerland are empty these days, as people work from home under government advice to slow the spread of the coronavirus. It's no different for swissinfo.ch staff, who have also set up their laptops in their living rooms and spare rooms to continue working, albeit in very unusual circumstances. Around the world, people who can work from home started to share videos on social media sites, such as Instagram, to show how they are coping with doing their job from inside their own four walls, and to encourage others to practise social distancing. We took part in the social media challenge, and compiled the clips our journalists have filmed from home to show how we are working in this time, and what else we're doing to keep our spirits up.
3 min
In Switzerland, almost one in ten people suffer from or are at risk of poverty. More and more citizen initiatives are being created to help them. In Switzerland, almost one in ten people suffers from or is at risk of poverty. In addition to the welfare system and the various foundations that help the most disadvantaged, more and more citizen initiatives are cropping up. One example is the Neuchâtel-based association Free Go, which was founded a year ago. Behind a black screen, at the back of the Sym'Bôle association's workshop, Lilian examines the shelves of a fridge. She chooses a few onions, a salad and a portion of lentils with chicken and puts it all in her bag, where she has already put some bread. This pensioner comes regularly to pick up free unsold items in the Free Go (a play on a French word for fridge). When she can, she deposits a coin in the piggy bank next door. "I find vegetables to make good soups," she says. "Sometimes you can even find cakes!" The supply varies from day to day, and the shelves are also often empty as free food is in demand. Volunteers collect unsold goods from the region and redistribute them in the four refrigerators set up in the canton. "Our goal is to avoid food waste and to help people in need, while raising awareness of the effects of over-consumption," explains Marilyn Béguin, president of the Free Go association. The electricity consumed by the Free Go is paid for by the owners of the premises that house them. Temperature and content controls are also guaranteed, to ensure that only consumable goods are made available. For example, when collecting cooked meals, volunteers and partners ensure that they are kept at the right temperature so as not to damage the food. The Free Go fridges are in discreet places, so as not to discourage people who would like to come and help themselves. As soon as new unsold items are placed in the cooler, an ad is posted on the Facebook pages of the places where the refrigerators are installed, and soon afterwards, everything found a taker. are installed in discreet places, so as not to discourage people who would like to come and help themselves. As soon as new unsold items are placed in the cooler, an ad is posted on the Facebook pages of the places where the refrigerators are installed, and soon afterwards, everything found a taker. Food and poverty: a complicated relationship "We've experienced hardship and we know people who suffer from it. We work in the social field, so on the one hand we see everything that is thrown away and on the other hand we are in contact with these people on a daily basis," say the founders of the association. "We receive grateful stories from people who have been able to prepare a meal thanks to our unsold goods. But it's hard for us to be proud of this action, because for us it's a matter of course." Offering healthy dishes and local food to people in need has an impact. As income and consumption surveys show, in times of crisis people often economise on food. However, the Swiss Nutrition Society warns that low-cost food has a high energy density but a low nutrient density. Not surprisingly, obesity affects the poor first. The World Health Organization has already sounded the alarm about malnutrition among the low-income population. Too much waste Every year, Switzerland produces 2.6 million tonnes of food waste. According to the Federal Office for the Environment, two-thirds of this waste could be avoided, since it is food that is still edible when it is thrown away. Households, restaurants and shops are responsible for 54% of this waste. It is from them that the Free Go association obtains its supplies. It has succeeded in convincing nine local partners to donate their unsold goods: the ready-made meals come from a communal kitchen, while the bread and vegetables are collected from local shops. Several other initiatives to counter food waste have been put in place in Switzerland. The country has committed itself to significantly reducing food waste, within the framework of the UN's Agenda 2030. Unlike "Too Good to Go", which offers to buy unsold food at reduced prices and at Caritas grocery stores, to use Free Go you don't need a membership card or a credit card. Free-access refrigerators seem to be a democratic and accessible means of combating food waste, to the point that they are flourishing all over the country. In German-speaking Switzerland, the concept was launched by the association Restessbar.ch, while several towns in French-speaking Switzerland are currently considering installing them. No sooner had it marked its first anniversary than the Free Go association launched a fundraising campaign to finance the purchase of a cooling unit. "This will enable us to collect more hot meals from day-care centres and old people's homes, for example," explains Marilyn Béguin. Lilian and the other people who rely on the unsold food will be delighted.
3 min
Local aid groups are popping up in Switzerland to help those most vulnerable to the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. Local aid groups, organised by citizens or charity associations, are popping up in Switzerland in an effort to help those most vulnerable to the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.
1 min
If you have a connection to Switzerland through your family and want to make it official by becoming Swiss yourself – this is how you can go about it. If you have a connection to Switzerland through your family or your partner and want to make it official by becoming Swiss yourself – this is how you can go about it. The Swiss passport can seem difficult to get. In this ‘Switzerland Explained’ video we describe how to kickstart the application process if you’re living abroad and how to find out if you’re eligible for a fast-track application procedure. There are three ways of becoming Swiss: by birth (having a Swiss parent), marrying a Swiss or living in Switzerland for at least ten years. Being born in Switzerland doesn’t mean you automatically get a Swiss passport. The process can cost hundreds and even thousands of francs and takes up to around two years. You’re excluded if you’re on welfare or have a criminal record. In 2018, 42,500 people acquired Swiss citizenship – so it is doable with the right information. This video should help point you in the right direction.
6 min