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covid-19 Swiss cantons expected to follow Ticino’s lead in emergency measures

man with medical masks

Masks are in short supply in Switzerland.

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

The federal health office said on Thursday that emergency measures introduced in Ticino on Wednesday could soon be extended to the rest of Switzerland. 

Already on Wednesday, the southernmost canton of Ticino declared a "state of necessity", which comprises a series of emergency measures, including the closure of some schools, on account of the coronavirus pandemic. These will be in effect until the end of March. 

“The rest of Switzerland will certainly do what’s being done in Ticino now. The wave has now arrived in Switzerland,” Daniel Koch, the head of infectious diseases at the Federal Office of Public Healthexternal link told Swiss public radio, SRFexternal link

He reiterated the importance of protecting the elderly and the chronically ill. “Because for them the virus is dangerous. They need hospitals. And if there are too many patients, the hospitals will not be able to cope with the situation.”

Koch later clarified that such decisions would be taken on a cantonal, not a federal level. 

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Among the 12 measures introduced in Ticino is one that discourages people over 65 from looking after children or taking public transport. Restaurants have also been told to limit seatings to 50 people maximum. The shut-down does not affect higher education or vocational training establishments.

Also on Wednesday, the Swiss government closed nine border crossing points to Italy – where there are over 12,000 cases and more than 800 people have died. The move is designed to better control and monitor the influx of workers from its southern neighbour. However, the government has resisted closing down the border altogether.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story referred to the emergency measures as a "state of emergency," whereas the Ticino authorities have described the emergency measures as being part of a "state of necessity".


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