The secret is out: Switzerland at center of spy tale The secret is out: Switzerland at center of spy tale The secret is out: Switzerland at center of spy tale
Long before Crypto Valley, there was Crypto AG, a Zug-based encryption company. Now the past is catching up with it after it was revealed to be at the center of a worldwide spy operation by the CIA and BND. CNNMoney Switzerland spoke to SRF journalist Fiona Endres, who worked on the investigation. She says it calls into question Switzerland’s policy of neutrality in international conflicts.
Hannah Wise
Swiss start-ups face existential threat from Covid-19
In any year, start-ups face an uncertain future. Now the coronavirus pandemic is adding to the strain, as venture capital funding cools. Jordi Montserrat, the co-founder of Venturelab, a support organization for budding entrepreneurs, says the federal government isn’t doing enough to help start-ups and that cantons may hold the key to their survival.
Olivia Chang
Swiss distilleries swap out drinks for disinfectant
Swiss distilleries are using high-proof alcohol to make disinfectant after Swiss regulators relaxed the rules, allowing them to distribute to any retail store or individual. While it’s a way for businesses to recoup losses during the lockdown, Augustin Mettler, the president of Swiss Distilleries, argues that it’s not sustainable in the long-term. “You also have to understand, when a Swiss distillery produces drinks, they normally use Swiss raw materials like fruits or grains,” he said. “Of course, this is much more expensive than if somebody imports raw alcohol for industrial issues.”
Tanya König
Herd immunity a no-go, says Ticino doctor
With the rising economic toll of containment measures, governments are asking whether the cure isn’t worse than the disease. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, initially wanted to allow COVID-19 to infect so many people that it would fizzle out on its own for lack of a host. Dr. Paolo Ferrari, chief medical officer of the cantonal hospitals in hard-hit Ticino, says herd immunity is not an option in an unvaccinated population as it would cost too many lives.
Tanya König
Tips for tackling coronavirus anxiety
Feeling anxious about your health, your business or your family during the coronavirus crisis? Marta Ra, CEO of Paracelsus Recovery, offers advice on how to cope with stress and shares five tips to keep you mentally healthy.
Olivia Chang
Swiss company develops coronavirus treatment—for masks
Swiss specialty chemicals company HeiQ has developed a treatment to make face masks more resistant to coronavirus. The ETH spin-off plans to treat 500 million masks with the antiviral product over the next four to eight weeks, says CEO Carlo Centonze. He wants to expand the solution to other products in hospitals, including gloves, medical gowns and curtains.
Ana Maria Montero
Antibody testing may be key to getting the healthy back to work
Governments are pumping money into their economies to limit the damage from virus shutdowns when they should be trying to get the healthy back to work safely. According to Lily Hua Fang, AXA professor of financial market risk at INSEAD, mass antibody testing could be the answer.
Ana Maria Montero
Counting the cost of coronavirus
When it comes to putting a figure on the economic impact of the shutdown in Switzerland, Avenir Suisse says it isn’t straightforward. It says its estimates are conservative and warns of impending inflation issues post-crisis.
Greta Ruffino
No, I don’t need Xanax—I need a COVID-19 test
Some doctors in Switzerland are not testing everyone with COVID-19 symptoms, and when they do, it can come at a high cost—both to patients' wallets and their personal safety. A personal report. Last week, I woke up with chest pains accompanied by dry cough and shortness of breath. My first thought was: Could this be the dreaded coronavirus? With “corona” being basically the only topic on everyone’s lips over the past few weeks, what else would I think? Nevertheless, I tried to stay calm: I am under 30 years old and in good health, so my chances of becoming seriously ill should be low. Should I go to the hospital? Well, no: Government guidelines warn that you can infect other people. Forget about calling the hotline: A friend of mine—also in the “not at risk” category—waited on the line for hours, only to be told to self-isolate. So I called my health insurer, where a kind lady gave me the name of a nearby emergency clinic that accepts walk-in appointments. She wished me a speedy recovery. Upon arrival at the clinic, the receptionist asked for my symptoms. “Chest pain, cough and some shortness of breath,” I said. “Great,” she exclaimed, visibly annoyed, and gave me a mask to wear. “You can sit over there and wait for your turn,” she said, pointing to area where at least another five other mask wearers were sitting—a scene that did not exactly inspire feelings of safety. The waiting room was, in fact, divided into two areas: people with masks on—the ones with coronavirus symptoms—and everyone else. I sat down, smiled at the lady in front of me who looked a bit afraid, and waited patiently for my turn. The doctor called me after a twenty-minute wait, and by the time I reached his office, which was one floor higher, I was gasping for air. The doctor found that although my temperature was 37.5 degrees, my lungs were doing fine. “Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity to test everyone, and even if you tested positive, what would we do about it?” he asked. “Your symptoms are mild. We will check your blood to exclude other diseases. For the rest, I urge you to practice self-isolation and take some Xanax to calm down.” According to Steven Taylor, author of “The Psychology of Pandemics” and a clinical psychologist at the University of British Columbia, the younger generations are concerned about the economic impact that COVID-19 is having on their lives. As for me, while I was encouraged to hear that my lungs were doing fine, I wanted to know if I was infected so that I could warn people I had recently been in contact with. Including the cameraman I traveled with to Ticino—currently the hardest hit canton in Switzerland—last week who suffers from asthma. However, the doctor insisted that there is not enough capacity to test the “not at risk” part of the population. This is despite almost a quarter of coronavirus patients in Italy—currently the country hit hardest by the pandemic—being between the ages of 19 and 50, with an increase in young patients requiring hospitalization. There are similar figures coming out of the U.S., where 705 of the first 2,500 coronavirus patients are between the ages of 20 and 44. And even if younger people have better chances of surviving the virus, they may very well be asymptomatic carriers—which makes getting tested all the more critical. The doctor finally agreed to test me. The visit resulted in a hefty CHF 490 bill, to be paid upfront: CHF 204 for the coronavirus test, the rest for the doctor’s visit and other tests. Unfortunately, I only had CHF 280 on me at the time. When I mentioned this to the receptionist, she threatened not to proceed with the test—and only relented when I promised to pay the rest the next day. I am now patiently awaiting the results. In the meantime, I am working from home, sticking to a strict self-isolation regimen, drinking turmeric tea—and definitely not taking Xanax.
Hannah Wise
Coronavirus crisis could change gig-working forever
Coronavirus lockdowns have stoked demand for some gig workers like delivery drivers and supermarket assistants. For others, though, the crisis has meant the loss of employment, with few, if any, social protections. While the Federal Council has announced new measures to help them, it’s not clear who will benefit, says Yves Schneuwly, managing director at Coople, a gig jobs platform. He hopes that the government’s recognition of the plight of gig workers will lead to more security for them in the future.
Greta Ruffino
COVID-19 and the danger of complacency
Mattia De Angelis, 29, urges people not to underestimate the ruthlessness of coronavirus. “They need to take all of this very seriously,” he said via Skype from Cavalese Hospital in northern Italy, where he has been battling COVID-19-induced pneumonia for almost 10 days.
Olivia Chang
Sensirion working flat out as demand soars for ventilator sensors
Demand for sensors in ventilators has grown three to six times during the coronavirus crisis, says Sensirion CEO Marc von Waldkirch. The Swiss sensor manufacturer is drawing on volunteers in the company and operating night and weekend shifts to meet production needs. According to von Waldkirch, the biggest bottleneck is now sourcing enough raw materials from suppliers.
Cindy Roberts
Roche calls on governments to help ensure supply of medicine during pandemic
Swiss drugmaker Roche today called on governments around the world to work closely with the pharmaceutical industry to meet demand for medicine and tests during the COVID-19 pandemic. Roche also said it is working “around the clock” to increase availability of its COVID-19 tests and is speeding up production of Actemra, a drug that could be used to treat patients with coronavirus. Actemra is currently in a Phase 3 study to test its safety and efficacy in hospitalized adult patients with pneumonia caused by the virus. Roche said its COVID-19 tests, which received emergency authorization in the U.S. earlier this month, will be shipped from Roche’s production sites to locations where “appropriate infrastructure is in place and testing can begin without delay.” The tests are also now available in countries accepting the European Union’s CE mark. While the company said it can supply millions of COVID-19 tests per month at its current maximum production rate, it strongly advises limiting their use to patients with symptoms of the disease to safeguard supply. “Roche is committed to doing all we can to ensure adequate supply of our medicines and tests during this pandemic, but we cannot do it alone,” the company said. Governments need to work with the pharmaceutical industry to keep manufacturing and supply running, Roche said. They should consider adjusting regulations on packages, reviews, and customs to expedite delivery of urgently needed medical supplies. Governments should also work together to balance global needs, the company said. For now, Roche is experiencing limited disruption to its ability to deliver medicines amid the pandemic, it said.
Ana Maria Montero
Swiss workforce ill-equipped to work from home
The coronavirus pandemic has transformed millions of people across the world into remote workers in record time. But not every company has this option. According to a recent survey by management consultancy firm Oliver Wyman, only 40 percent of the Swiss workforce can successfully work from home, with infrastructure and access to data being among the biggest challenges.
Ana Maria Montero
Geneva airport braces for turbulent times
EasyJet will join other airlines in grounding most of its fleet this week, impacting airports including Geneva’s, where the UK budget airline is the biggest operator. André Schneider, CEO of Geneva Airport, is reducing the workforce to cut costs but doesn’t expect the federal government to close the hub.

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