5 things expats in Switzerland need to know about in February 2022
As the first month of the year draws to a close, people in Switzerland should expect some major changes in February 2022. From COVID measures to voting and driving, here are five things that expats need to know about.
1. COVID measures expected to be relaxed in Switzerland
As per their announcement in January, the Federal Council has extended a number of COVID restrictions and plans to let them expire at the end of March. However, politicians have remained optimistic that some measures could be lifted earlier, with the Federal Council confirming that some policies, like the requirement to work from home, could be revoked as early as February 2.
Health Minister Alain Berset announced in late January that the easing of certain measures may be imminent. However, health experts within cantonal health authorities and the Federal Office of Public Health have called the announcement premature, noting that the pandemic is far from over. The details of any relaxations are due to be announced in the first week of February.
2. Autovignette (motorway sticker) for 2022 now mandatory
Drivers be warned: from February 1, if you try to drive on a Swiss motorway without purchasing your Autovignette or Auto Vignette, you will face a fine of up to 200 Swiss francs. If you are caught by Swiss police without the sticker fixed to your windscreen, you risk a ticket.
Motorway passes can be purchased at post offices, petrol stations and many kiosks in areas near the borders of Switzerland. The price has been capped at 40 Swiss francs for the whole year, which will allow you access to Switzerland’s fastest roads.
3. Alarm test in Switzerland on February 2
If you hear a siren blaring on Wednesday, February 2, do not be alarmed. The first Wednesday of February every year sees Switzerland test more than 7.000 sirens across the country as part of the early warning system. The Polyalert system is designed to warn of impending attacks or hazards and informs the emergency services of an imminent call to action.
Typically, the alarms are tested between 1.30pm and 2pm. Residents are notified of the drill through the ALERTSWISS app, and through posters put up by local councils (Gemeindes) in the weekend leading up to the test. The Swiss government says that the public is not required to respond to the siren in any way, but to remain vigilant.
4. Swiss national referendums February 2022
Once again, Swiss citizens will go to the polls in February to decide upon four national referendums affecting the country. These are the ban on tobacco advertising where children are present, the ban on animal testing, amendments to business taxes and direct government funding for media organisations. For more detailed information, check out the guide to Switzerland’s national referendums.
On top of the national referendums, Swiss cantons and cities will be voting on their own initiatives, as well as electing some cantonal governments. The current election cycle has seen some creative marketing by political parties, such as the Green Liberals of Switzerland advertising a tent as shared housing in Zurich, to make a point about rental costs.
5. Ski week for Swiss schools
Finally, for many students in Switzerland, February will be the time to hit the slopes as schools break up for ski week. The school holidays in each canton tend to be staggered throughout the month, so as not to overwhelm Swiss ski resorts.
Switzerland is not without quality resorts, with Verbier being voted the best ski resort in the world for 2021. Resorts have also benefited from an influx of tourists from abroad, so be prepared for large crowds if you plan to head to the mountains this month.