CORONAVIRUS UPDATES

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Here are all the latest updates and news on coronavirus from CNNMoney Switzerland. We will be updating this page with new content on a regular basis.

The Swiss government unwrapped a CHF 32 billion package of new measures to cushion the economic impact of the coronavirus, most of it aimed at helping small business survive a looming recession.

The spending plan comes on top of CHF 10 billion in emergency aid announced last week. It includes allocations for groups that did not benefit from the previous injection, which mainly consisted of wage subsidies for workers on furlough.

The Federal Council is setting aside CHF 20 billion to guarantee bank loans for cash-strapped companies. It earmarked another 380 million as compensation for cultural and sports events that have been cancelled because of the health threat.

The government also announced further restrictions on public life, banning gatherings of more than five people in parks and other public spaces. People must also keep a distance of two meters between them when they venture out. The rules will be enforced by cantonal police, with violations subject to a fine.

Some cantons have called for a blanket curfew like that in neighboring France, where people are confined to their homes until the end of the month. But Interior Minister Alain Berset said that depriving people of their freedom could prove counterproductive as they might resist harsher measures.

“It’s people’s behavior that will make the difference, not the political decisions,“ Berset said.

Employers must also prevent gatherings of more than five people. Cantons can shut down businesses or construction sites that fail to heed strictures on social distancing, Berset said.

Efforts to contain the coronavirus have paralyzed large swaths of the economy. The government on Thursday slashed its growth forecast for this year. It now sees output shrinking 1.5 percent, excluding the contribution from international sporting events still planned.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said the economy should start to recover in the second half, assuming the virus situation stabilizes. “The forecasting uncertainty is currently extremely high,” SECO said, adding that it could not exclude a bigger downturn.

The pandemic has set off a global dash into cash as investors dump stocks for assets perceived as safer. Six central banks, including the Swiss National Bank, took further action today to shore up money markets, saying they will conduct U.S. dollar swap operations daily instead of weekly.

Switzerland began shutting down a week ago, but for many small businesses this is already far too long. Panic is setting in as they watch their revenue dry up and their cash pot dwindle. Shops, restaurants, gyms and hairdressers are all closed. Small- and mid-sized businesses play a major role in the Swiss economy. About 90 percent of Swiss companies have fewer than 10 employees. Companies with fewer than 250 employees provide two out of three jobs in the country.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland and Liechtenstein has climbed to 4,176 and 43 people have died, health authorities said Friday. That pales in comparison with neighboring Italy, but the numbers are rising fast.

“The next days will be difficult,” Berset said. 

The Swiss government announced an additional CHF 32 billion in aid on Friday, mostly targeted at small- to medium-sized businesses hit by the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

With schools closed all over the globe, many parents have found themselves in the unexpected and perhaps uneasy situation of having to supervise their children’s schoolwork.

Looking for bargains in a bear market? Swisspartners CIO Peter Ahluwalia says some great deals await the brave of heart.

The Swiss National Bank refused to join the global rate-cutting frenzy today, signaling that it will step up currency interventions to stem the rise of the franc against the euro.

Doctors near the Swiss border with Italy started seeing the first coronavirus patients in early March and the number has been rising ever since.

Switzerland went into lockdown less than a week ago but for many small businesses that’s already way too long. Panic is setting in as they watch their revenue dry up and their cash pot dwindle.

  • CORONAVIRUS: CLOSED RESTAURANTS, OPEN KITCHENS

Restaurants may be closed, but kitchens are still open for business. Here’s how Switzerland’s small businesses are trying to survive the coronavirus shutdown.

  • CORONAVIRUS COULD COST THE WORLD 25 MILLION JOBS, UN SAYS

The economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by as much as 25 million people, the International Labor Organization warns.

The Swiss government should set up a CHF 100 billion fund—about 15 percent of GDP—to help businesses survive the coronavirus crisis, two prominent economists say.

  • THREE ASIAN CITIES SHOW EUROPE HOW TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS

China’s draconian measures for controlling the coronavirus outbreak on the mainland cannot be easily replicated by nations in the rest of the world, which don’t have the same top-down power structure. But successful action taken in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan can serve as better examples, says Steven Jiang, a CNN senior producer based in Beijing.

  • SWITZERLAND IN DESPERATE RACE TO STAY AHEAD OF CORONAVIRUS

Switzerland is in a desperate race against time as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to rise rapidly. Officials are imploring people to observe restrictions on social contact to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed. Daniel Koch, head of the federal health office, says the country may have just a few more days to get the situation under control.

A Swiss tech start-up is rejiggering its model to help communities during the coronavirus lockdown.

  • THE CORONAVIRUS BLUES

The coronavirus crisis is serving as a source of e inspiration for musicians and governments seeking to educate people about the disease and to help people cope with confinement.

  • SWITZERLAND NEEDS MORE WIDESPREAD CORONAVIRUS TESTING, SAYS EPFL’S SALATHÉ

Switzerland should have started testing more liberally a long time ago to slow the spread of the coronavirus, says Marcel Salathé, an associate professor at EPFL and an expert in digital epidemiology.

UEFA announced today that is postponing Euro 2020 because of the coronavirus crisis. The quadrennial European football championships were originally supposed to take place from June 12 to July 12 across 12 countries to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the tournament.

Europe hunkered down Tuesday, with borders, schools, and businesses closed across the region and a police lockdown underway in the worst-hit countries.

  • NEIGHBORS MOBILIZE AGAINST CORONAVIRUS

Communities are using social media to organize grocery shopping or help with other basic needs for people confined to their homes. Hilf-jetzt.ch, a platform set up on Friday, lists 300 groups that offer assistance to those coping with the coronavirus outbreak.

  • ROCHE CEO ON THE ROLLOUT OF ITS NEW COVID-19 TESTS

The U.S. has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for a new coronavirus test that reduces the result time from days to mere hours. Developed by Roche, it is expected to speed up the ability to test patients by tenfold.

Companies all over the globe are struggling to cope with the disruption caused by the coronavirus crisis. Beatrix Morath, managing director of AlixPartners in Switzerland, recommends these tools and strategies to help lessen the impact on businesses.

Sally Yan, who has lived in Switzerland for 13 years, left her home in Zurich over the weekend to wait out the coronavirus pandemic in what she believes to be a safer location: Shanghai.

The Swiss government announced CHF 10 billion in aid for businesses and tightened borders as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to surge.

Tourasia and Diethelm Travel, a destination management company in Southeast Asia, saw business decline by 60 percent in February—and March will be worse, says CEO Stephan Roemer.

The airline industry is facing “one of the most severe crises” in 20 years, warned Alexandre de Juniac, CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

For Swiss watchmakers, the coronavirus crisis in China has been a double whammy. Not only has it hit sales in a major market, but it has also disrupted supplies of components, says Oliviero Pesenti, director of Erbas.

  • TIPS FOR THE CONSCIENTIOUS TELECOMMUTER

Not everyone enjoys working from home. Here are five tips on how to make the best of your home office during the coronavirus crisis.

Policymakers need to come up with creative solutions to help businesses survive a potential credit crunch as the coronavirus upends the global economy, says Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers.

  • CORONAVIRUS FUELS RECORD SALES OF COMPUTER SCREENS

Screens and other office supplies are in great demand these days as the coronavirus forces people to work from home. Digitec Galaxus is among retailers who say they are seeing record-breaking sales of some items.

Cash-strapped start-ups that manage to stay afloat in the coming months may struggle to survive the economic aftermath of the coronavirus, says Jordi Montserrat, co-founder of Venturelab, a group that supports entrepreneurs in Switzerland.

Forget gold and equity markets, Bitcoin stands in its own category, says Crypto Finance CEO Jan Brzezek. He argues that Bitcoin hasn’t reached the status of a safe haven—yet.

Hotels are especially exposed to the effects of coronavirus, from the spate of recent cancellations to travelers not even booking because of the current uncertainty.

At least 476 people have tested posted for coronavirus in Switzerland, but that number isn’t a reliable measure of the outbreak.

The 68,000 Italians employed in Switzerland are vital to the economy, says the president of AITI, the industry association of Ticino, which explains why the Swiss border remains open despite the lockdown in neighboring Italy.

Despite a nationwide shutdown in Italy, cross-border workers are still welcome in Switzerland. CNNMoney Switzerland reports from Chiasso as the number of cases of the virus continues to grow.

Countries including Switzerland are abandoning efforts to keep a precise count of coronavirus cases and are focusing instead on helping hospitals cope with patient overload, says Michael Hengartner, president of the board at Swiss university ETH.

  • SOCIAL DISTANCING AT THE SWISS STOCK EXCHANGE

The Swiss stock exchange operator today joined a growing number of financial institutions that are instructing some employees to work from home or other locations as the financial industry braces for disruption from the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

As authorities around the world scramble to contain the coronavirus, people are facing a new dilemma: how to greet someone without a handshake. Here are five suggestions.

  • READY, SET, GO? THE LATEST ON TOKYO 2020

Is Japan ready to host the Olympic Games and deal with the coronavirus? CNN International correspondent Blake Essig reports from Japan’s newly-built national stadium in Tokyo.

  • IOC TAKING WAIT-AND-SEE APPROACH TO CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus was a major topic at this week’s meeting of the International Olympic Committee’s executive board in Lausanne. But President Thomas Bach says the words “cancellation” and “postponement” never came up.

  • STUCK AT HOME? THE SWISS GOVERNMENT’S EMERGENCY KIT

Do you know what you need to survive a crisis? If you don’t, fear not—the Swiss government has you covered. Its decades-old list includes bottled water, rice, batteries, and yes, chocolate and cheese.

Advances in technology are coming together during the coronavirus epidemic to help scientists break new ground at an unprecedented rate.

The spread of coronavirus is pushing people to seek medical advice—by phone. The Swiss government’s coronavirus hotline, run by Basel-based Medgate, has logged more 20,000 calls over the past five weeks.

The Swiss National Bank will probably participate in any coordinated action by central banks to shore up the global economy in response to the coronavirus epidemic, the former deputy governor of Ireland’s central bank said Tuesday.

Coronavirus fears have sent the demand for hand sanitizers soaring. Many pharmacies and online shops in Switzerland are sold out. But making your own hand disinfectant isn’t hard.

Millions of jobs in Europe rely on the tourism industry, which has been rocked by the coronavirus. “We’re almost getting to the stage where travelers have something of a moral duty to continue to travel,” says travel writer Simon Calder.

Thousands of hotel rooms are empty following the cancellation of major Swiss events. Cafés, bars, and restaurants are seeing fewer customers. Adrien Genier, CEO of Geneva Tourism & Conventions Foundation, says that the industry is still optimistic the situation will turn around.

The idea that employees need to be present in the office remains persistent despite huge leaps in technology since the SARS outbreak in 2003, when there were only laptops and basic mobile phones. But that may be about to change as the coronavirus forces tens of millions of people in China and beyond to work from home.

On the heels of the Geneva Motor Show being cancelled, the verdict is also in for Baselworld 2020: The watch and jewelry exhibition is officially postponed until the end of January 2021. The question now is how rival fair Watches and Wonders Geneva will respond to the move, as the two expos had previously agreed to sync up their dates to boost attendance.

Automakers may reconsider the value of big, expensive car shows after the Geneva Motor Show was cancelled due to coronavirus fears, says Peter Valdes-Dapena, senior writer at CNN Business.

The Geneva Motor Show was cancelled Friday due to coronavirus fears, dealing a fresh blow to an industry already crippled by the outbreak in China. Baselworld, one of the world’s largest watch fairs, was also called off after the Swiss government announced a ban on public and private gatherings involving more than 1,000 people. The measure, valid through March 15, takes effect immediately.

The German industrial giant Siemens expects the coronavirus epidemic to dent its financial performance this year, the head of its Swiss business said in an interview with CNNMoney.

Many Swiss multinationals have adopted policies to prevent workers in Asia from contracting or spreading the coronavirus. Now they are applying these restrictions closer to home as the disease gains ground in Europe.

Preventing coronavirus is all about personal hygiene. Here the World Health Organization explains how you can minimize exposure and help protect others around you.

  • WORRIED ABOUT YOUR CROSS-BORDER COLLEAGUE?

About 6.5 percent of workers in Switzerland commute from neighboring countries, including Italy, raising concerns they could bring the coronavirus with them. Economiesuisse says such fears are exaggerated, adding that many Swiss businesses can be run from home if need be.

The Venice Carnival has been cut short due to the outbreak of coronavirus, but that isn’t stopping revelers in Lucerne from celebrating their biggest party of the year.

  • HOW TICINO IS DEALING WITH VIRUS THREAT

Hours before Switzerland confirmed its first case of coronavirus, the city of Lugano was already on edge.

A deadly epidemic is still no excuse to slack off. Demand for online education has surged in China as the coronavirus confines children to their homes.

A 70-year-old man from Ticino was diagnosed with the virus on Tuesday, about a week after he returned from a trip to northern Italy, health officials said.

WATCH MORE

Coronavirus fuels record sales of computer screens
Screens and other office supplies are in great demand these days as the coronavirus forces people to work from home. Digitec Galaxus is among retailers who say they are seeing record-breaking sales of some items.

Start-ups struggle to survive coronavirus
Cash-strapped start-ups that manage to stay afloat in the coming months may struggle to survive the economic aftermath of the coronavirus, says Jordi Montserrat, co-founder of Venturelab, a group that supports entrepreneurs in Switzerland. He predicts that investors will reconsider some existing projects and hold off funding for new ones.

Will hotel industry be gutted by coronavirus?
Hotels are especially exposed to the effects of coronavirus, from the spate of recent cancellations to travelers not even booking because of the current uncertainty. Ari Andricopoulos, the CEO of RoomPriceGenie, a company that helps small and medium-sized hotels price their rooms, is already feeling the pinch. “Hotel owners are fearing the worst at this stage,” he says. “There’s a good spirit of solidarity in the hotel industry, but I think we all know it’s not a good time.”

Why you can’t trust coronavirus counts
At least 613 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Switzerland, but that number isn’t a reliable measure of the outbreak. The Swiss government is abandoning efforts to keep a precise count of coronavirus cases to focus instead on easing the burden on the healthcare system and protecting the most vulnerable—the elderly and those with preexisting conditions. “The government has decided that they will only test people who are at risk, who have strong symptoms,” said Michael Hengartner, president of the ETH Board. “Young people, who might have weak symptoms, will simply be asked to stay at home to minimize contagion.” The Cantonal Hospital of Lucerne has received a recommendation from the government to limit testing to the most vulnerable or severe cases, said spokesman Markus von Rotz. “Only patients who are hospitalized and health care staff will be tested for coronavirus,” said Claude Kaufmann, a spokesman for Hirslanden Private Hospital Group, which operates 17 hospitals. “Patients with fever and cough must stay at home so that they do not infect anyone.” The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health confirmed that the cases could be far higher than reported and that “people at especially high risk are tested as a priority.“ No test, no infection This raises the question of whether the count reflects the true scale of the outbreak. Many people have been keeping tabs on the daily tally from the federal health office, relying on it to provide a measure of the severity of the situation in Switzerland. The country reported its third coronavirus death Tuesday as the outbreak worsens in neighboring Italy, which has logged over 9,000 infections and 460 deaths. It also marks a change in strategy from the early days of the outbreak, when the government ramped up testing following the first confirmed case on Feb. 25. Back then, even mild cases were being counted and traced in the effort to contain the crisis. The Swiss Federal Council said Friday that tracing the infection would continue “as long as possible.” At the same time, it indicated that protecting people by minimizing contact—at work or social events—was now the bigger priority. Large events have been banned across the country but, unlike in Italy, no blanket travel restrictions have been imposed. And the Swiss border remains open to commuters from Italy.  “With the infection rate that this virus has, it will basically cross across the human population,” Hengartner said. “It will become a pandemic. And the challenge for governments is to keep the infection rate low enough that we can always manage the patients that need to get hospitalized.”

Coronavirus shuts down Italy but Swiss border remains open
Despite a nationwide shutdown in Italy, cross-border workers are still welcome in Switzerland. CNNMoney Switzerland reports from Chiasso as the number of cases of the virus continues to grow.

Swiss border open for business
The 68,000 Italians employed in Switzerland are vital to the economy, says the president of AITI, the industry association of Ticino, which explains why the Swiss border remains open despite the lockdown in neighboring Italy.

World is losing battle to contain coronavirus, says president of ETH Board
Countries including Switzerland are abandoning efforts to keep a precise count of coronavirus cases and are focusing instead on helping hospitals cope with patient overload, says Michael Hengartner, president of the ETH Board and chairman of the Executive Committee. With a pandemic inevitable, the challenge now is to “keep the infection rate low enough that we can always manage patients that need to get hospitalized.”