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  • Mon, 06 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Will the United Nations soon be obsolete? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Is the international order capable of meeting the enormous challenges facing states and societies around the world? We look at the four main challenges facing International Geneva.  As the European headquarters of the United Nations, Geneva is helping mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN and 100 years since the formation of the League of Nations (LoN). Geneva is one of the two most important global centres of multilateral diplomacy together with New York. In Geneva, the challenges facing the entire planet are debated and negotiated before being sent to New York, where the states decide which options to respond to.   This organisational model for relations between states is more precious than ever; the Geneva authorities have named the celebrations #Multilateralism100. It is an unequivocal call for action at a time when the world’s policeman – the United States – continues its slide towards unilateralism, a desire for power without regard for the sovereignty of ...
  • Mon, 06 Apr 2020 07:14:00 +0000: Coronavirus: the situation in Switzerland - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus, with more than 21,000 positive tests and more than 700 deaths. Here’s the latest:  As of April 6 (9am), 21,148 people have tested positive and 717 people have died, according to an aggregate of cantonal statistics. On April 4, the Swiss head of infectious diseases Daniel Koch indicated that the peak of the outbreak had not been reached and that it was too early to relax restrictions.Since March 24, over 2,000 Swiss nationals have been repatriated on 13 flights organised by the foreign ministry. On April 3, the Swiss government doubled its coronavirus emergency loan scheme to CHF40 billion after being flooded by requests for help by businesses. More than 76,000 agreements have been made.The government has issued a recommendation to all citizens to stay at home, especially the sick and the elderly. It has announced a countrywide ban on gatherings of more than five people and more measures to help support the economy.
  • Mon, 06 Apr 2020 06:58:00 +0000: Swiss lead way with crisis loans to small businesses - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    It took Matthias Knauer only a minute or two to complete and scan the single-page form for a liquidity lifeline from the Swiss government. About 30 minutes after sending it, the money was in his company’s account. The comparison with his computer hardware support company’s UK subsidiary, based in the North Yorkshire town of Ilkley, could not be starker. Mr Knauer has 80 staff in Ilkley and is the town’s second-biggest employer.  After days of confusing phone calls to UK authorities, the company’s application for an emergency loan, part of a multibillion pound package of funding pledged by the government to support small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, was denied. The story has been the same for his other subsidiaries in Europe, he said: “The Brits are still trying to work out what to do, in Germany the system got completely overloaded and broke apart and the French are stuck in paperwork. “The backbone of all these economies are SMEs and they need money now. I ...
  • Sun, 05 Apr 2020 09:14:00 +0000: Greetings from my home office in the Swiss Alps - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    There are certainly worse places to work from. I know I am very privileged in this regard, especially since the authorities have appealed to residents not to abandon towns and cities for the mountains. I have been compensating for the physical activity I usually get during my daily commute to Bern with a peaceful morning walk along the lakeshore and an early evening cycle in the mountain valleys behind my house. The temptation for many Swiss to enjoy the same benefits is very real, since a lot of them own chalets or apartments in the mountains that are within a relatively short drive or train journey from their urban homes. But the powers that be have warned against such travel for fear the coronavirus will spread to small alpine communities which lack the medical facilities to deal with an outbreak. The municipality of Onsernone in the southern canton of Ticino is one example. According to reports, nearly half of the population of about 700 souls is over 65 years of age. They ...
  • Sun, 05 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Pandemic pushes more Swiss businesses to short-time working - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    In order to avoid mass lay-offs, Swiss companies are resorting to a measure that has proved its worth in times of crisis: short-time working. What is it? Hotel and catering, transport, manufacturing, tourism – a variety of sectors are being hit hard by the pandemic owing to the closure of public institutions and non-essential businesses, but also border closures and restrictions on people’s movement. Swiss companies are seeing an alarming drop in revenue and are increasingly resorting to short-time working to avoid redundancies.  What is short-time working?  In Switzerland, when a company finds itself in difficulty, it can temporarily reduce the working hours of its staff. The employees then work at a lower percentage and the employer pays a lower salary which is supplemented by unemployment insurance.  The employees are compensated with 80% of the loss of income. So if the company reduces the activity rate from 100% (full-time) to 50%, the company pays this 50% and the ...
  • Sat, 04 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Giacometti’s lost works reappear at Paris show  - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Famed Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti destroyed many of his own works and lost countless others. Using photos of his mythical Parisian studio, his namesake institute has reconstructed some of these forgotten and little-known sculptures.  The room where Giacometti set up home with his brother Diego in 1926 is miniscule. A mere 24m2 on the ground floor of a house on rue Hippolyte-Maindron in Paris, it had no toilet or running water. Water had had to be fetched from outside. Alberto slept on a small bed at the back of the room, while the younger Diego made do with the mezzanine.  In 1948, Swiss photographer Ernst Scheidegger paid the artist a visit.  “Alberto’s cramped and crowded studio […] where he had been working for 20 years, had no comforts, but every object, every inch of wall space carried signs of his work,” Scheidegger wrote in his book, Traces of a Friendship. “If Alberto was away […] he was usually in one of two cafés located at the intersection of Rue Didot ...
  • Sat, 04 Apr 2020 07:00:00 +0000: Coronavirus is a nightmare for domestic violence victims - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    What happens when the doors to the house are locked? If the hope of stopping the Covid-19 pandemic lies in the confinement of populations, isolation also leaves more leeway for violent spouses. Swiss victim support organisations are concerned.     Stay home! The most important measure to combat the Covid-19 pandemic is being broadcast everywhere, in Switzerland as in many other countries. This injunction presupposes that the home is a safe and cosy place. But many people, especially women experience domestic violence, turning confinement into a nightmare.  "We are in a contradictory situation: people are told to stay at home, but for victims of domestic violence staying at home is more dangerous than going out," says Myriame Zufferey, director of Solidarité Femmes for the Biel region. Since the government imposed restrictions on people’s movement to stem the spread of coronavirus, the phone of this help service for women victims of violence has been ringing less frequently.  ...
  • Fri, 03 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000: How much do Swiss people earn today? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Who takes home more – a pharmacist or a logistics manager? An assistant doctor or a head nurse? In this year’s Swiss salary round-up, we focus on the people working especially hard during the coronavirus crisis. Every year, canton Zurich’s Office for Economy and Labour publishes an almost 800-page book of salary data for a wide range of professions. It is based on wage statistics and contract details from around Switzerland. Shall we peek at the pay slips of some of the people whose services are particularly in demand in the wake of Covid-19? Healthcare Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing Groceries Delivery and communication Media Clean-up and waste disposal While Swiss salaries might appear high to people abroad, it’s important to remember that Switzerland also has a very high cost of living. For example, people spend about a third of their income on rent alone. You can contact the author of this article on Twitter: @SMisicka
  • Thu, 02 Apr 2020 15:00:00 +0000: B&B chalet has room with alpine view, but no takers - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Angela McMillan would love to have guests in her chalet in the mountain resort of Leysin. Her bed and breakfast is open for business, yet bookings have dried up due to the coronavirus lockdown. “We are really worried. For a lot of owners of holiday flats and B&Bs, this will be the end,” McMillan says, during a video call with swissinfo.ch. McMillan, an expat from the United Kingdom who has lived in Switzerland on and off for the past four decades, opened her B&B three years ago. She lives from the income generated from renting out three rooms in her rustic chalet. She contacted swissinfo.ch earlier this week to raise awareness of her plight, and – she thinks – that of thousands of others like her, who are not eligible for loans or credit promised by the Swiss government to soften the blow from the health crisis: “In a very short time, I will not be able to pay my bills or cover my expenses,” she wrote. McMillan is self-employed and says she declares and pays taxes on her ...
  • Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:39:00 +0000: Should all Swiss be wearing face masks? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    “No,” say the Swiss government and the World Health Organization (WHO); “yes,” say some European governments and some Swiss politicians; “yes and no,” say many opinionated swissinfo.ch readers.  Since April 1, shoppers entering supermarkets in neighbouring Austria have been given a face mask which they must wear; the plan is to extend the measure to all food shops and chemists of a certain size by April 6. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia it’s compulsory to wear one anywhere in public, and in many parts of East Asia almost everyone wears a mask by default.  Although Switzerland has one of the highest number of coronavirus cases per million inhabitants in Europe, the Swiss authorities don’t think much of this.  “It hasn’t been proven that distributing masks to the public protects people,” said Daniel Koch, head of communicable diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), at a press conference on March 17.  Koch has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the ...
  • Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:26:00 +0000: What is considered enough when it comes to coronavirus testing? - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland has one of the highest per capita rates of testing in the world, yet it does not have a comprehensive overview of the total infection rate. In this second collection of answers to readers’ questions, we explore whether there is such a thing as an optimal testing rate. Testing has become one of the most hotly debated topics of the pandemic. Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called for comprehensive testing, not all countries have deployed tests on a large scale.  Switzerland has gradually ramped up its rate of testing since the first cases of coronavirus were announced. But it continues to prioritise the most vulnerable and those in need of hospitalization. This approach has prompted many questions from swissinfo.ch readers about who can and cannot get tested. Some experts in the country have also questioned the targeted strategy of public health officials. A number of leading epidemiologists, led by Marcel Salathé from the Federal Institute of ...
  • Thu, 02 Apr 2020 08:00:00 +0000: Start-up firms feel frozen out of coronavirus bailout funds - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    A year after setting up, technology firm Microcaps is hotly tipped for success having developed a novel method of producing microparticles for the healthcare, cosmetics and food industries. However, coronavirus has thrown an almighty spanner in the works for Microcaps and other Swiss start-ups. Just like other companies, start-ups are faced with shrinking revenues, cancelled orders and mounting bills. But new entrants don’t have the cushion of a wide customer base, money in the bank and an established reputation. And neither, so it seems, do they have equal access to emergency bailout funds from the state. The CHF20 billion (around $20.6 billion) state-backed facility grants interest-free loans to small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Loans are limited to 10% of a company’s revenues or a multiple of wage bills if they were incurred within the last year. But most start-ups take a few years to build up a meaningful revenue stream and cannot afford large salaries in their ...
  • Wed, 01 Apr 2020 14:46:00 +0000: MSF deploys Covid-19 teams in Geneva to help most vulnerable - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world with arguably one of the best health systems, yet the scale of the coronavirus pandemic means that even the Swiss need humanitarian support. Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has 12 specialists in Geneva helping the main hospital as well as the homeless and other vulnerable residents.  “Today, in Europe some of the most advanced health systems in the world are buckling under the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic. Responding to epidemics is at the core of what we do – intervening when the system is overrun and where we can put our expertise in managing emergencies to good use,” said MSF International President Christos Christou on March 27. In recent weeks, the humanitarian agency, perhaps best-known for its work in conflict zones in countries such as Yemen or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been scaling up its activities across Europe to Covid-19 – in Italy, Belgium, Spain, France, Norway, Greece ...
  • Wed, 01 Apr 2020 09:00:00 +0000: Swiss commodities sector grapples with Covid-19 turbulence - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    The strategic importance of commodities and experience in handling fluctuations has helped commodity firms weather the coronavirus storm better than most. swissinfo.ch caught up with Florence Schurch, general secretary of The Swiss Trading and Shipping Association (STSA), to find out how the commodities sector is handling the crisis and what it means for Switzerland.  swissinfo.ch: How would you characterise the impact of the coronavirus health crisis on commodity trading and shipping activity in Switzerland? Florence Schurch: The global coronavirus outbreak has significantly impacted the global economy. Such impacts are inevitably felt in commodity trading and shipping activity given the global nature of commodity supply chains. Measures put in place by different countries to contain the spread of the coronavirus causes some disruption to the normal flow of the supply chain. However, the flow of goods is free from these restrictions so as not to break supply chains. The ...
  • Tue, 31 Mar 2020 14:52:00 +0000: On the frontline at a Swiss hospital battling Covid-19 - Top news - SWI swissinfo.ch
    Health workers at the University Hospital of canton Fribourg are doing their best amidst a general shortage of personnel, equipment and secure zones.  Fribourg is a rural canton close to the Swiss capital Bern with over 300,000 residents. Around 15% of the population is over 65 and therefore at high risk if infected with coronavirus. The cantonal hospital is currently scrambling to boost capacity to deal with a potential spike in new Covid-19 patients. The mission is to increase the number of beds and bump up the number of intensive care units to four. The hospital wards also have to be adapted to minimise the risk of infection.  “These are unsuitable for the current situation: they do not provide a sufficient level of isolation to protect the staff,” says chief physician Govind Sridharan on the hospital’s blog.   In addition to preparing secure zones, the hospital also has to source equipment, including ventilators. Another priority is training hospital staff on how to use the ...