Policy responses for Switzerland - HSRM


Policy responses for Switzerland

6. Measures in other sectors

6.1 Measures in other sectors

Many MEASURES IN OTHER SECTORS beyond the immediate scope of the health system are being taken to prevent further spread of the virus. This section contains information on many of these areas, including border and travel restrictions and economic and fiscal measures, among others.

On April 29, the Federal Council decided to gradually ease coronavirus-related restrictions on entry to Switzerland. In a first step, starting May 11, it is planned to process applications that were submitted until March 25 by workers from the EU/EFTA area and from third countries. Further, for Swiss and EU citizens, family reunification in Switzerland will become possible again from May 11. However, border controls will remain in place for the time being.

Since June 15, border crossings from and to Germany, France and Austria possible again, and persons entering Switzerland from any of the Schengen states can do so subject to the normal entry requirements. .

Sources and links:

On entry requirements: https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/en/home/aktuell/aktuell/faq-einreiseverweigerung.html

On March 16/17, the Federal Council decided to introduce checks at the borders with Germany, Austria and France, and impose entry bans, albeit with exceptions. Previously, it had already imposed Schengen border controls on persons entering from Italy. Entry to Switzerland from its four large neighbours was only possible for Swiss citizens, persons holding a residence permit for Switzerland and persons who had to enter Switzerland for work-related reasons. Transit and goods traffic was allowed. Lastly, people were able to enter Switzerland in emergency situations. In order to implement these measures in a targeted manner, smaller border crossings around the country were closed and cross-border traffic channelled through larger crossings.

Repatriation Operation
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) concluded the largest repatriation operation ever on April 29, with a final flight that returned travellers from Ghana, the Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso to Switzerland. 34 flights from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Oceania and within Europe were organized by the FDFA. More than 7000 persons stranded abroad, including about 4000 Swiss citizens, were able to return home. In addition, over 1500 Swiss nationals could return home on flights organised by other countries.

The Swiss government has so far covered the total costs of about CHF 10 million for the repatriation flights. However, repatriated individuals are expected to contribute by paying the equivalent of the market rate for a standard fare. Like other European countries that organised repatriation flights, the FDFA has invoiced passengers a flat rate calculated on the basis of the distance travelled. This cost-sharing contribution will cover about 80% of the entire operation. The FDFA will contribute the remaining 20%.

Swiss embassies and consulates provided consular assistance to citizens stranded abroad who were in urgent need of help. Each request for assistance was reviewed by the FDFA on a case-by-case basis. The FDFA provided assistance to Swiss citizens in need and where necessary granted appropriate emergency loans to Swiss nationals who were unable to provide for themselves or obtain financial assistance from the local authorities.

On March 13, based on recommendations from the FOPH, the Federal Council started recommending to avoid the use of public transportation whenever possible. Anyone who had symptoms of a respiratory disease should not use public transport, as should people over 65 years of age. Employers should organise their employees' working hours so that they could avoid rush hours. In addition, measures for the protection of transport personnel should be implemented as far as possible and no food services should be provided on trains. 

The Federal Council approved a comprehensive package of measures amounting to over CHF 60 billion to cushion the economic consequences of the spread of the coronavirus. The aim of the measures, which are aimed at various target groups, is to avoid redundancies, maintain employment, safeguard wages and provide support for the self-employed.

Bridging credits: Since 26 March, banks and PostFinance have been providing liquidity to affected companies in the form of bridging credits, so that they can cover their current overheads despite turnover reductions associated with the coronavirus. Credits of up to CHF 500,000 are fully secured by the Confederation, and credits of between CHF 500,000 and CHF 20 million are secured by the Confederation to 85% of their value. Companies that need liquidity can obtain it and repay the corresponding loan over a five-year period. As of 2 April, 76,034 credit agreements with an estimated volume totalling CHF 14.3 billion had been concluded.

On April 3, the Federal Council decided to expand the guarantee programme for COVID-19 bridging credit facilities. Due to the considerable demand, it is asking the parliament to increase the existing guarantee credit by CHF 20 billion to a total of CHF 40 billion. CHF 10 billion of this sum is being requested as a matter of urgency.

Extension and simplification of short-time working: Claims for short-time work compensation were extended and the application process simplified, measures include, for example: short-time work compensation can now also be paid to employees with fixed-term contracts and to persons working for a temporary work organisation; and the approval period for short-time work will be extended from 3 to 6 months.

Compensation for loss of earnings for self-employed persons: Self-employed persons who suffer loss of earnings due to official measures to combat the coronavirus are compensated, unless compensation or insurance benefits already exist. Compensation is provided for the following cases: school closures, medically prescribed quarantine, closure of an independently managed publicly accessible business. The regulation also applies to freelance artists. Compensation is paid as a daily allowance. This corresponds to 80 percent of income and amounts to a maximum of 196 Swiss francs per day. The number of daily allowances for self-employed persons in quarantine or with care duties is limited to 10 and 30 respectively.

Innovative start-ups receive additional federal support
On April 22, the Federal Council decided to use the existing system of guarantees for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to provide support for start-ups, which will not require a time-consuming legislative amendment. So far access for start-ups to the Confederation's existing emergency aid was either not possible or very restricted.

A new procedure for start-ups was created with the Confederation guaranteeing 65% of a credit and the cantons the remaining 35%. Individual cantons can decide whether to offer this guarantee to start-ups. If a canton decides to adopt the new instrument, start-ups can submit a guarantee application to the relevant cantonal office by August 31, which, if approved on the cantonal level, will be passed to the federal level. The latter will issue the guarantee confirmation, which the start-up can use to apply for credit from a bank of their choice. The Confederation and the cantons can altogether guarantee in total up to CHF 154 million in credits with this process.

Support for airlines
On April 29, the Federal Council decided to provide support to the airlines Swiss and Edelweiss to bridge liquidity shortfalls. The Federal Council has asked the parliament to guarantee credits totalling just under CHF 1.9 billion. As this is not possible under the current Aviation Act, an amendment to the law will be discussed by parliament in the special session from 4 to 8 May 2020 in an urgent procedure.

Support for parents
The Ordinance on Measures to fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19 Ordinance 2) clarified that cantons were required to ensure the provision of childcare for children who could not be looked after privately. Child day-care facilities could only be closed if other suitable arrangements existed. 

Parents who had to interrupt their gainful employment due to school closures in order to care for their children are entitled to compensation. They are also entitled to compensation in the event of interruption of employment due to a quarantine ordered by a doctor. As for the self-employed, the loss of earnings is paid as a daily allowance. This corresponds to 80 percent of income and amounts to a maximum of 196 Swiss francs per day. The compensation is limited to 10 daily allowances for persons undergoing quarantine measures.

Civil Protection
On March 20, the Federal Council decided to make a quota of a maximum of 850,000 working days of civil protection available to the cantons. Already in the previous weeks, persons obliged to provide protection had been called upon and deployed in the context of the Corona crisis in various cantons, for example for the establishment and operation of reception centres at hospitals or hotlines for the population.

Sources and links:

• FAQ on refusal of entry, free movement of persons and suspension of visas: https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/en/home/aktuell/aktuell/faq-einreiseverweigerung.html 
• March 13 announcement of federal measures against coronavirus: https://www.admin.ch/gov/de/start/dokumentation/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-78437.html
• March 20 Announcement on Coronavirus: Massnahmenpaket zur Abfederung der wirtschaftlichen Folgen: https://www.efd.admin.ch/efd/de/home/dokumentation/nsb-news_list.msg-id-78515.html
• April 3 Announcement: Federal Council increases volume of liquidity assistance guarantees to CHF 40 billion: https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-78684.html 
• Ausweitung und Vereinfachung Kurzarbeit: https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/de/home/Arbeit/neues_coronavirus/kurzarbeit.html 
• Entschädigung bei Erwerbsausfällen für Selbständige: https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/de/home/Arbeit/neues_coronavirus/selbstaendige.html 
• Entschädigung bei Erwerbsausfällen für Angestellte: https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/de/home/Arbeit/neues_coronavirus/entschaedigung_erwerbsausfall_angestellte.html 
• Coronavirus: Der Bundesrat bietet den Zivilschutz auf: https://www.babs.admin.ch/de/zs/einsatz/coronavirus.html
• Coronavirus: Federal Council to ease further measures from 11 May:https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-78948.html
• #flyinghome: The largest repatriation campain in Swiss history:https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/fdfa/aktuell/newsuebersicht/2020/01/corona-virus.html
• COVID-19: Innovative start-ups to receive additional federal support : https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases.msg-id-78872.html
• COVID-19: Federal Council fleshes out support for airlines: https://www.admin.ch/gov/en/start/documentation/media-releases/media-releases-federal-council.msg-id-78944.html