Europe hunkered down Tuesday, with borders, schools, and businesses closed across the region and a police lockdown underway in the worst-hit countries.
Governments have drastically curtailed movement and social contact as the number of cases continues to surge. France ordered a nationwide lockdown Monday, joining Italy, Spain, and Greece. In the UK, the most vulnerable were told self-isolate for 12 weeks.
Switzerland and Germany stopped short of mandating citizens to stay home. The Swiss Federal Council on Monday expanded business closures to include shops, restaurants, sports facilities, museums, cinemas, and hairdressers. Grocery stores, banks, gas stations, and pharmacies remain open. Germany also clamped down on public life.
Schools and gatherings of more than 100 people had already been banned since Friday.
President Simonetta Sommaruga appealed to people to strictly adhere to the new rules on gatherings and closures. Failure to do so could imperil country’s health care system and prevent the sick from getting urgently needed medical attention, she said.
Borders slam shut across Europe
Europe as a whole moved to restrict entry, while individual countries also tightened borders. Aside from trucks in transit or carrying goods, Switzerland is open only to citizens, residents, and commuters.
The government mobilized as many as 8,000 members of the military to provide medical services, transport the ill, and assist with border checks. They may also be used to construct “improvised infrastructure,” the government said without elaborating.
With tens of millions of people confined to their homes, the list of large manufacturers shutting down is growing. Volkswagen said Tuesday that it would close most of its European plants for two weeks because of uncertainty over demand for cars and supplies of parts.
The aircraft manufacturer Airbus also suspended production in France and Spain this week as a precaution against the spread of the virus.
More and more economists are predicting the pandemic will cause a global recession. The Swiss economy will also slump during the first half of the year, with export industries hardest hit, before slowly returning to growth, the Swiss Economic Institute KOF said Tuesday.
Roche rolls out COVID-19 tests
Roche has started shipping the first 400,000 COVID-19 tests to laboratories across the U.S. to begin patient testing under an Emergency Use Authorization, the Swiss drugmaker said Tuesday.
CEO Severin Schwan told CNNMoney Switzerland on Monday that the company is in talks with regulators to make its drug Actemra available to treat the secondary effects of the coronavirus infection.
Stocks in Europe struggled for direction. The FTSE 100, the DAX and the CAC 40 were all down about 1 percent in afternoon trading. The three major U.S. indexes opened higher but quickly slipped into the red in choppy trading a day after Wall Street recorded historic declines.
Switzerland has recorded 2,269 confirmed cases of the virus, including 14 deaths. Globally, more than 185,000 people have contracted the disease and more than 7,400 have died.
“We know things will get worse before they get better,” Home Affairs Minister Alain Berset said at a news conference late Monday. “But they will get better.”
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.