SWISS TOURISM INDUSTRY FACES LONG ROAD TO RECOVERY

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The Swiss tourism industry is drowning under a deluge of coronavirus cancellations, with demand down between 80 percent to 95 percent from a year ago, a government official said Monday.

The slump is unprecedented both in depth and breadth, Eric Jakob of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs said at a news conference. Adding to its woes, the industry is having to contend with the strong franc, a magnet for investors in times of market uncertainty.

SECO sees tourism sales declining between 25 percent and 35 percent this year on the whole, assuming the government continues to ease its anti-coronavirus rules. The industry should gradually improve next year but a full recovery is unlikely before 2022, he said.

SECO is working on ways to jump-start the tourism business as the economy reopens. The industry already has access to the Federal Council’s COVID-19 aid package, which includes state-backed bank loans and wage subsidies known as short-time work.

“First it’s about survival, then investing,” Jakob said.

Switzerland is among several European countries that are relaxing restrictions as the pandemic shows signs of abating across the continent. The government gave hairdressers, garden centers, and home improvement stores the go-ahead to reopen next week.

The COVID-19 outbreak has killed 1,042 people in Switzerland, with 27,944 positive tests reported Monday, an increase of just 204 cases from Sunday. The virus continues to rise but more slowly, and the number of people in intensive care is declining, said Patrick Mathys, head of crisis management at the Swiss health ministry.

Many doctors and drugstores in Switzerland are selling finger-prick kits for people to conduct coronavirus antibody tests at home. The tests can detect if a person has contracted the infection but not if they have gained immunity, Mathys cautioned.

While the government may use such tests in the future to determine the prevalence of the disease across the population, it makes little sense for individuals to use them, he said. He added that the home kits have not been certified in Switzerland.

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