7 things expats in Switzerland need to know about in August 2022
With a new month comes plenty of new rules here in Switzerland. From national celebrations to more heatwaves and weather news, here’s everything expats in Switzerland need to know in August 2022.
1. Swiss national day
August starts with a bang in Switzerland, as Swiss national day is celebrated on August 1. This year, Switzerland will be celebrating its 731st birthday, with the date marking the 1291 unification of the Swiss cantons. On that day, cantons Uri, Schwyz and Nidwalden pledged to never be ruled over by foreign powers and have been working together as a nation to ensure this every day since.
The event is marked by parades and celebrations in every Swiss city, with fireworks and bonfires being lit through the night. Unfortunately, since the weather has been so dry, and the risk of forest fires is now high in many regions, lots of cantons and municipalities have banned these practices this year. So far, the cantons of Graubünden, Ticino, Thurgau, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, Uri, Glarus, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg have banned their planned firework displays, likely making this national day a more quiet affair.
2. Flight cancellations and travel disruptions in Switzerland (and beyond!)
If this summer has taught us anything, it’s to make sure you arrive at the airport on time! Delays at check-in, security and baggage reclaim at almost all major airports across Europe have disrupted the travel plans of thousands of people across the continent. Added to this, there are a number of strikes being planned by staff at various airlines and airports, asking to be paid higher salaries as inflation continues to rise.
So far, airlines across Europe have already cancelled more than 25.000 flights scheduled to depart in August and it seems likely that more will be on the way. The worst affected airport in Switzerland is Zurich, where passenger numbers have jumped by nearly 250 percent since the same period last year. This has meant that many flights have been delayed or cancelled and more than 250 pieces of baggage have been lost each day.
3. More heatwaves on the way
Just weeks after the last one, Switzerland could be in for another heatwave. The record-breaking temperatures seen in July 2022 have already alarmed climate scientists concerned about melting glaciers in the Swiss mountains. Several year-round ski resorts have also been forced to close their doors as snow has melted and the slopes are no longer suitable for skiing down.
Though more accurate predictions are yet to be forecasted, current estimates show that the jet stream could bring some more hot weather to Switzerland throughout August giving the country a final blast of the summer before the autumn rolls in.
4. Back to school in Switzerland
Children are set to return to school in August, with some returning as soon as the first week of the month. Depending on which canton you’re living in, schools return at slightly different times, so be sure to check school websites for the most accurate term dates.
5. Changing COVID-19 test rules in Zurich
In Zurich, COVID-19 tests will only be administered by qualified health professionals from August 1. Before, those seeking a test would be able to swab themselves for rapid antigen or PCR tests. Since then, there has been an increasing number of missed results due to improper handling of specimens and cases of injury due to the way swabs have been taken. By using only qualified healthcare professionals who have undergone specialist training to take the swabs, canton Zurich hopes to prevent more incidents such as these.
While COVID-19 has been the last thing on many people's minds over the summer, as the autumn moves closer, the Swiss government will be looking ahead nervously, hoping to minimise the risk of the healthcare system and hospitals becoming overwhelmed during the cold season - as cases of seasonal illnesses such as colds and the flu rise alongside COVID-19 infections.
6. Federal council returns to work after summer break
It’s not just the kids that have had a break this summer - the Federal Council has too! After breaking up for summer several weeks ago, the council will return to work on August 17 - and there’s plenty on the agenda! Discussions will take place regarding offering more booster vaccinations against COVID-19, as well as how to respond to the ongoing situation between Russia and Ukraine.
7. Medical marijuana approved for use in Switzerland from August 1
Finally, some good news for those suffering chronic and painful illnesses: Switzerland has approved medical marijuana for use from the start of August. The current process where patients seeking treatment with the drug have to receive special permission from the health ministry will be scrapped, with doctors and qualified staff at hospitals now making the decision alongside patients instead.
Demand for medical marijuana has surged in recent years, with the health ministry granting the use of the drug to 3.000 patients in 2019. Defending their decision to approve the drug for medical use, the ministry said “Sick people must be able to access these medicines without excessive bureaucracy.”