Switzerland is in a desperate race against time as the number of new coronavirus infections continues to rise rapidly.
The government on Wednesday reported 2,772 confirmed cases of the disease, an increase of more than 500 from Tuesday. The death toll climbed to 21 from 14.
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 10 days to get the situation under control.
Switzerland is in a lockdown, with shops, restaurants, sports centers, and schools all closed, and there are bans on public and private gatherings. It has mobilized up to 8,000 military members to assist civil authorities and medical personnel. But concerns are growing that the country may follow the same course as Italy, where the health care system is on the verge of collapse.
The situation across the region “does not look very accommodating,” Vontobel analysts said in a note Wednesday. “Harsher measures are needed to prevent healthcare systems from collapsing.”
The government is preparing additional economic relief, on top of the CHF 10 billion aid package presented last week.
“The Federal Council today discussed additional measures to cushion the economic consequences of the coronavirus epidemic,” spokesman André Simonazzi said in a tweet. He said the decision will be announced Friday.
The statement comes amid news reports that several big banks are working on a plan to support cash-strapped businesses. Credit Suisse said it is “actively involved” with the federal government, the Swiss National Bank, and the financial supervisor FINMA on ways to provide liquidity and loans for companies. UBS declined to comment.
The SNB is expected to leave rates unchanged at its policy meeting on Thursday, but it may take other measures to shore up the economy. Like much of the world, Switzerland is headed for a recession in the coming months, the KOF economic institute said Tuesday.
While Swiss officials have said helicopter money is out of the question, the concept is finding favor in the U.S., where the government is considering sending USD 1,000 checks directly to Americans to help them make ends meet during the outbreak.
Switzerland is urging nationals traveling abroad to return home after the EU restricted entry to the 27-nation bloc. The country, which is not an EU member, shares a border with France, Italy, Austria, and Germany. All are now closed to foreigners in both directions.
The European Business Aviation Association called on the EU and Switzerland to consider “all recovery and relief measures to ensure business continuity” for an industry that employs 370,000 people across the region.
“We have been receiving reports of operators’ aircraft grounded, airport closures, and staff being put on leave across Europe due to the rapidly evolving crisis and travel restrictions,” Athar Husain Khan, secretary general of the EBAA, said in a statement Wednesday.