Switzerland closes schools and offers 10 billion francs to businesses hit by coronavirus
Switzerland took the step of closing all schools on Friday and announced it would stump up around 10 billion Swiss francs in aid for businesses hit by the impact of the coronavirus epidemic.
"The situation is difficult," Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters, as the government listed a range of measures to halt the spread of the virus after the small Alpine country saw its number of positive tests balloon to over 1,000.
Authorities are taking the following steps to slow down the spread of Covid-19:
Controls will be performed at Switzerland's borders to prevent the influx of foreigners from the most affected countries, particularly Italy. Sommaruga said that Schengen agreement allows individual members to take these restrictive measures in special situations. Exceptions will be made for Swiss citizens and permanent residents returning to Switzerland, as well as foreigners employed in Switzerland.
Ban on public and private events of more than 100 people. Up until now, only events of 1,000 participants or more were forbidden, though some cantons and cities adopted lower limits. That restriction includes sport events, fitness clubs, cinemas, and ski areas.
Cantons are urged to close schools and set up childcare facilities for students who can’t remain at home. Home Affairs minister Alain Berset said care facilities will be made available to avoid "mixing of the generations", which would imply that grandparents are caring for the children while their parents are at work. "Our priority is to protect older people who are at risk from coronavirus".
The government also acknowledged the heavy toll the outbreak was taking on the Swiss economy, and said it was prepared to release up to 10 billion Swiss francs ($10.5 billion, 9.5 billion euros) to help companies and employees to make it through the crisis.
A full eight billion Swiss francs of that amount would be made available to cover costs related to partial unemployment.
Bern also said it would help sporting organisations cover lost income from cancelled and postponed events with up to 50 million francs.
Some cantons have already announced the closing of their schools.