Note: This story is now out of date, with the Swiss authorities deciding on Wednesday to partially close the border. For updated information, please click here.
As reported in Swiss newspaper Le Temps, Cassis said Switzerland’s external borders – including that with heavily impacted Italy – would remain open for the time being.
Neighbouring Austria on Tuesday closed its border to Italy and is set to refuse any entrants from the country. Italy has also put in place extensive restrictions on internal travel in the country.
Internal border closures were also not being considered in Switzerland, Cassis said.
Despite reports throughout the country that border closures were being considered, a spokesperson for the Federal Council said such rumours were false.
#CoronaInfoCH Die Meldung der Handelszeitung, dass die Schweiz die Grenzen zu Italien schliesst, ist falsch. Auch die Meldung, dass der Bundesrat heute Abend eine Krisensitzung einberufe, ist falsch.
— André Simonazzi (@BR_Sprecher) March 10, 2020
Coronavirus, referenda on the agenda
Cassis met with French foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to speak about the virus.
“Free movement within the Schengen area and the next vote on May 17 were naturally part of the subjects raised,” he said.
Switzerland is set to go to the polls on May 17th to vote on whether to restrict freedom of movement for EU citizens.
Cassis said border closures were not being considered as they were not effective – and that cooperation was the best protection.
“We must reiterate to our fellow citizens that at this epidemiological stage, when the virus is circulating all over Europe, the closing of borders is no longer taken into consideration,” he said.
“Everyone is affected. What matters is first of all coordination between the health services of European countries.
“The coronavirus crisis requires us to exchange as much information as possible, both on the progression of the epidemic and on the state of stocks for protective equipment.”
Cross-border staff a major consideration
As has been reported extensively by The Local Switzerland this week, cross-border workers are of crucial economic importance in Italy – especially in the southern canton of Ticino.
Approximately 70,000 workers commute to Ticino from Italy daily, an estimated 4,000 of which work in the medical sector.
Cassis addressed this, saying “the health reality is that we are interdependent on the European continent. Our neighbours know, for example, how much the Swiss healthcare system depends on border staff. ”