Switzerland spent more than 500 million francs importing face masks

Switzerland spent more than 500 million francs importing face masks
Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga wearing a mask at an event in Ukraine. Photo: SERGEI SUPINSKY / AFP
From March until June 2020, Switzerland spent more than half a billion francs on importing coronavirus face masks.

Figures from news agency AWP show the sheer scale of Switzerland’s importing of personal protective equipment, with imports of face masks alone amounting to 560 million francs. 

The vast majority of the masks were imported from China (93 percent). 

In a typical year, approximately 12 million francs would be spent per month on the import of personal protective textiles such as masks, indicating the scale of the increase. 

The expenditure is likely to be much higher now, as the figures run until June 30th. Switzerland put in place a compulsory mask requirement on public transport on July 6th, with some cantons extending the rules to shops. 

READ: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's new compulsory mask requirement 

As reported in Swiss news outlet Watson, while the amount spent on masks can be determined, the number of masks imported cannot be accurately counted. 

An estimate from early July however showed that approximately 3.5 million masks are disposed of each day in Switzerland. 

Switzerland is heavily reliant on imports for personal protective equipment. 

Prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Switzerland was completely reliant on its neighbours for manufacturing masks – with none being made locally.

As a result Switzerland was reluctant to put in place a mask requirement, noting that available masks should be kept for healthcare workers

During the height of the pandemic, neighbouring countries like Germany and France blocked shipments of masks and other protective equipment to Switzerland, saying they were needed at home

While machines, which can be used to make masks, were imported into Switzerland in April and production began in May, Swiss politicians have said the country should learn the lessons of the coronavirus and begin manufacturing their own personal protective equipment. 

While they have been produced, Swiss-made masks have as yet not hit shelves as they have failed certification standards

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