Debt-shy Switzerland announces record-breaking budget deficit

Switzerland announced Wednesday that it ended 2020 with a record-breaking budget deficit of 15.8 billion Swiss francs ($17.6 billion, 14.6 billion euros) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Debt-shy Switzerland announces record-breaking budget deficit
The coronavirus pandemic has taken its toll on Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The wealthy Alpine country had ended 2019 with a surplus of 3.6 billion francs and its budget for 2020 initially assumed a 344-million-franc surplus.

“On the one hand, federal receipts were lower as a result of the economic downturn; on the other hand, the confederation incurred high extraordinary expenditure to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic,” the government said in a statement.

Usually exceptionally disciplined with its budgets, Switzerland saw its tax receipts shrink by 3.4 percent due to the economic slowdown, but also saw its expenditure soar with the measures intended to prop up the economy.

Some 15 billion Swiss francs went on pandemic-related expenditure in 2020, including 10.8 billion related to short-time working and 2.2 billion to cover lost earnings, notably for the self-employed.

Overall, “the economic downturn was less severe than anticipated in 2020”, the government added.

For 2021, ministers asked parliament to allocate eight additional credits for a total amount of 14.3 billion Swiss francs to finance pandemic support measures.

“According to current estimates, a financing deficit of approximately 20 billion Swiss francs is expected for 2021,” the government said. “In 2022 to 2024, the confederation expects the federal budget to break even or be slightly positive.”

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Reader question: What proof of vaccination will Switzerland require for Americans and Brits to enter?

Starting on June 28th, vaccinated travellers from third countries, including Americans, will be allowed to come to Switzerland without having to show a negative Covid test or quarantine upon arrival.

Reader question: What proof of vaccination will Switzerland require for Americans and Brits to enter?
Vaccination in a foreign country can be proven with an official certificate. Photo: JAIME REINA / AFP

“In view of the positive developments in the epidemiological situation and the progress made in the field of vaccination, the Federal Council is proposing to greatly relax the prescriptions and health measures at the border for people entering Switzerland”, authorities announced on June 11th.

They specified, however, that final decision on this move will be made on June 23rd.

READ MORE: Switzerland set to reopen its borders to vaccinated Americans

However, if the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths will remain the same as now — or, better yet, drop further — vaccinated tourists from outside the Schengen zone will be able to come to Switzerland before the end of June.

What proof of vaccination will those travellers have to show to enter the country?

Basically, the requirements for residents of third nations are the same as for people coming from the EU/EFLA states.

The proof showing you have been fully vaccinated should be an official document issued by a recognised health authority in your country of residence.

The document, which can be either on your smart phone or in paper form, must have your name and date of birth, dates when both doses were administered (or a single dose in case of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine), as well as the name and batch number of the vaccine.

READ MORE: Reader question: How do I prove in Switzerland that I’ve been vaccinated abroad?

Another important requirement is that the vaccine you received is authorised for use in the European Union and, therefore, in Switzerland.

So far, the European Medicines Agency has approved vaccines from Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.

In addition to these two, Switzerland will also accept the Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac for entry. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the travel should take place at least 14 days after the second dose, which is when immunity to coronavirus is believed to fully kick in.

The same rules apply to people coming from the so-called “high-variant” countries (VOC) which at the moment include Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, Nepal, and the UK.

They can enter Switzerland if fully vaccinated with proper proof.

Otherwise, they must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 days before arriving in Switzerland.

They will then have to quarantine for 10 or seven days.

However, Russia’s Sputnik V, as well as China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines have not received European or Swiss approval to date.

Does this mean travellers from Russia, China, and other countries that don’t use EU-approved vaccines can’t come to Switzerland?

They can still come, but will be required to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in Switzerland.

They will then have to quarantine for 10 or seven days.

This rule pertains not only to foreign visitors, but also to Swiss citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad.

Will the Covid certificate be sufficient proof?

If it is internationally recognized, which means valid in the EU and Switzerland, then yes.

Switzerland’s certificate will be ready by July 1st. However, not all countries may have these immunity passports ready for use before you travel abroad.

If this is the case, then a proper vaccine document, as mentioned above, will suffice.

READ MORE: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass