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CNNMoney Switzerland @CNNMoneyCH | 23 March 2020

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.

 

31 March 2020

Last updated: 1600 Hrs

Switzerland will raise funds from financial markets more frequently this year to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 
 
“The Federal Council’s measures to cushion the economic consequences of the spread of the coronavirus increase the federal government’s short-term financing needs,” the Federal Finance Administration said in a statement Tuesday.  

It plans to double its holdings of short-term instruments from around CHF 6 billion to CHF 12 billion francs. It also said it will step up sales of bonds. 
 
The government has put together an economic aid package worth about CHF 42 billion, including CHF 20 billion in guarantees for bank loans to small businesses. The finance department is considering topping up the program after companies borrowed CHF 6.6 billion in the first few days. 
 
Demand for wage subsidies has also been overwhelming. Businesses idled by coronavirus containment efforts have applied in record numbers for aid to keep workers on the payroll. 
 
Switzerland has reported 16,176 cases of COVID-19, with 373 deaths. 
 
Also Tuesday, the government said it has set up a scientific task force to advise officials and coordinate research on coronavirus. 
 
The aim is to identify research topics and products or services where Swiss science can quickly make a significant contribution to combating COVID-19, the interior ministry said. 
 
A global race is underway to find better ways of preventing, diagnosing, treating, and coping with the virus. In many countries, new government funds await scientists whose work shows promise. 
 
Matthias Egger, president of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation, will head the task force. 
 
Last month, the foundation put out an urgent appeal for proposals on research into coronaviruses, earmarking CHF 5 million for projects. The call received more than 270 applications, Swiss radio RTS reported.  

 

30 March 2020

Last updated: 1700 Hrs
 

Switzerland’s CHF 20 billion emergency loan program for companies hit by the coronavirus crisis is just days old but the government is already looking to top it up.  
 
Since the program was launched Thursday, nearly 32,000 companies have taken out bank loans of CHF 207,000 on average, corresponding to CHF 6.6 billion, Eric Jakob, head of the Economic Promotion Directorate, said Monday.  He said that the Finance Department was now discussing whether to expand the program beyond CHF 20 billion. 
 
While Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said from the beginning that an increase was possible, it “could become a topic faster than expected,” Jakob said at a news conference. 
 
Some 115 lenders are participating in the program, designed for small and midsized businesses. Companies can borrow up to 10 percent of their annual income but no more than CHF 20 million. The government said it has set up a working group to look into helping larger companies in need of cash. 
 
On Monday, ABB became the latest Swiss blue-chip to issue a profit warning, citing the pandemic and weak oil prices. The engineering group expects all divisions to record lower revenue for the first quarter. The company scrapped its earlier 2020 targets, saying it is no longer providing financial guidance because of the economic uncertainty.  
 
Last week, LafargeHolcim, the world’s largest cement maker, also ditched its profit forecast for 2020. 
 
KOF barometer plunges 
 
A leading indicator of the trends in Switzerland’s economy plunged in March, driven by the manufacturing sector. The KOF economic barometer fell to 92.9, the lowest since the Swiss National Bank scrapped its cap on the franc in 2015. The long-term average is 100. 
 
“Accordingly, the Swiss economy can be expected to see a marked decline in growth rates in the near future,” the think tank said. “This plunge of the barometer reflects the first economic consequences of the accelerated spread of the coronavirus.” 
  
EasyJet has grounded its entire fleet of aircraft in response to the collapse in demand for air travel caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The budget airline said it could not put a firm date on when commercial flights will resume.  
 
“We continue to take every action to remove cost and noncritical expenditure from the business at every level in order to help mitigate the impact from the coronavirus,” CEO Johan Lundgren said Monday. “The grounding of aircraft removes significant cost.” 
 
EasyJet had already ceased operations in Geneva, where the UK budget airline is the biggest operator. André Schneider, CEO of Geneva Airport, told CNNMoney Switzerland last week that he is reducing the workforce to cut costs but doesn’t expect the federal government to close the hub. 
 
UBS Group is sticking to its previously announced dividend for 2019. The bank will ask its investors to approve a payout of USD 0.73 per share at its annual meeting on April 29, according to the agenda published Monday. Swiss markets supervisor FINMA has advised companies to carefully consider the level of dividends as the pandemic takes a toll on balance sheets. 
 
UBS said it will conduct the meeting online, in line with the government’s ban on gatherings of more than five people. 
 
The government’s count of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 climbed to 15,475 from 12,161 on Friday. At least 295 have died. 



27 March 2020

Last Updated: 1745 Hrs

Switzerland’s Federal Council on Friday conditionally agreed to let cantons close industries to combat the coronavirus, ending a standoff with the southern canton of Ticino. 
 
In exceptional cases, the cantons can order economic activities to cease for a limited period, the council said. 
 
The decision comes a week after Ticino shut down factories and construction sites. The canton bordering Italy is struggling with a coronavirus caseload three times the national average and the numbers continue to climb. 
 
“There is no sign of inflection in new cases and cases that end up in intensive care,” Paolo Ferrari, chief medical officer of Ticino cantonal hospitals, said in an interview Thursday with CNNMoney Switzerland. “The pressure on our hospitals is still mounting.” 
 
Ticino’s unilateral action clashed with federal rules, which authorize cantons to close only those companies that don’t follow restrictions on social separation and hygiene. 
 
The canton also came under fire from Swissmem, a leading manufacturing association, which said the closures were unnecessary and would lead to supply problems for the entire country. 
 
In other decisions related to the pandemic, the government said relocations will continue to be allowed if moving companies observe the limits on social contact. Switzerland is taking a different tack from the UK, which asked home buyers and renters this week to delay moving during the coronavirus crisis.  
 
The government also extended the grace period for late rent from 30 to 90 days. 
 
Switzerland has banned gatherings of more than five people and closed restaurants, bars, sports facilities, and cultural spaces. Grocery stores, bakeries, pharmacies, and banks remain open, and people can still take walks and go out for food and medicine. 
 
Interior Minister Alain Berset said most people are respecting the measures, with the cantons reporting few violations. He urged people to “stay very focused and united” as the Easter holiday approaches, adding that the virus continues to gain force.  
 
“We must continue to work together and with a lot of solidarity,” he said.  
 
The government raised its count of positive coronavirus tests to 12,161 people, including 197 deaths.  

In any year, start-ups face an uncertain future. Now the coronavirus pandemic is adding to the strain, as venture capital funding cools. 

Swiss distilleries are using high-proof alcohol to make disinfectant after Swiss regulators relaxed the rules, allowing them to distribute to any retail store or individual. 

With the rising economic toll of containment measures, governments are asking whether the cure isn’t worse than the disease. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for example, initially wanted to allow COVID-19 to infect so many people that it would fizzle out on its own for lack of a host.

Feeling anxious about your health, your business or your family during the coronavirus crisis? Marta Ra, CEO of Paracelsus Recovery, offers advice on how to cope with stress and shares five tips to keep you mentally healthy.

Swiss specialty chemicals company HeiQ has developed a treatment to make face masks more resistant to coronavirus. The ETH spin-off plans to treat 500 million masks with the antiviral product over the next four to eight weeks, says CEO Carlo Centonze. 

The SNB has set up a refinancing facility to give banks access to liquidity needed to expand lending rapidly and on a large scale, President Thomas Jordan said. He said there is no upper limit on the amounts available and drawdowns can be made at any time. The interest rate will be minus 0.75, same as the SNB policy rate. 

Coronavirus lockdowns have stoked demand for some gig workers like delivery drivers and supermarket assistants. For others, though, the crisis has meant the loss of employment, with few, if any, social protections. 

Governments are pumping money into their economies to limit the damage from virus shutdowns when they should be trying to get the healthy back to work safely.

When it comes to putting a figure on the economic impact of the shutdown in Switzerland, Avenir Suisse says it isn’t straightforward. It says its estimates are conservative and warns of impending inflation issues post-crisis.

Some doctors in Switzerland are not testing everyone with COVID-19 symptoms, and when they do, it can come at a high cost—both to patients' wallets and their personal safety. A personal report. 

Mattia De Angelis, 29, urges people not to underestimate the ruthlessness of coronavirus. “They need to take all of this very seriously,” he said via Skype from Cavalese Hospital in northern Italy, where he has been battling COVID-19-induced pneumonia for almost 10 days.

Demand for sensors in ventilators has grown three to six times during the coronavirus crisis, says Sensirion CEO Marc von Waldkirch.

Roche said it is working “around the clock” to increase availability of its COVID-19 tests and is speeding up production of Actemra, a drug that could be used to treat patients with coronavirus. Actemra is currently in a Phase 3 study to test its safety and efficacy in hospitalized adult patients with pneumonia caused by the virus. 

In a country with just 1,000 beds equipped with ventilators, Swiss doctors may soon be confronted with the kind of decisions that their colleagues in Italy have been facing: how to prioritize patient care if there’s a shortage of resources. 

EasyJet will join other airlines in grounding most of its fleet this week, impacting airports including Geneva’s, where the UK budget airline is the biggest operator. 

The world is awaiting a vaccine against coronavirus but even when it arrives, not everyone will benefit. Some people with weak immune systems, such as the elderly and those with HIV, may not be eligible. 

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. 

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.

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.

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 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 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 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.  

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.

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. 

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. 

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.

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.  

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Social distancing is nothing new at Zurich’s Le Bijou Luxury Apart-Hotel. Now, for those seeking greater seclusion, the self-contained, fully automated units come with in-room doctor’s visits, coronavirus testing, and round-the-clock nurses’ care. Thanks in part to the special packages, occupancy rates are running around 50-60 percent despite the pandemic, says CEO and co-founder Alexander Hübner. He rejects criticism that he’s exploiting the health crisis for personal gain, saying he’s responding to the needs of his guests.
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