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covid-19 Swiss parliament interrupts spring session over coronavirus

View inside the Swiss parliament

View inside the Swiss parliament on March 2

(Keystone / Alessandro Della Valle)

Parliament is cutting short the ongoing work in its two chambers – House of Representatives and Senate - due to the “rapidly worsening” coronavirus situation in Switzerland. 

The spring session of parliament began on March 2 and was due to run for another week from March 16.

But due to the “rapidly worsening coronavirus situation” the presidents of the House of Representatives and Senate parliamentary groups decided to interrupt work at the request of the administrative delegation, parliament announced on Twitter on March 15. 

The Keystone-SDA News agency confirmed that the presidents discussed the situation on Sunday during a telephone conversation. 

Senate President Hans Stöckli told Swiss public radio, SRF;  "We have no business that makes it necessary for us to meet...but the situation is serious."

Various requests had been made by parliamentarians to suspend the spring session two weeks ago but it had gone ahead nonetheless. Special measures had been introduced to prevent transmissions.

Stöckli said a special session is already planned for early May. In addition, a session could be convened at any time if the Federal Council needed parliamentary decisions.

Switzerland is one of the countries most affected by the coronavirus worldwide, with over 1,500 confirmed cases and 14 deaths.  

On March 13, the Swiss government imposed sweeping measures on March 13, including closing schools across the country until at least April 4 (some cantons have longer closures until April 30), banning public gatherings of more than 100 people, limiting access to restaurants, bars and discos to a maximum of 50 people and pledging CHF10 billion to help the economy. 

Cantons Ticino, Basel Country and Jura have introduced tighter measures to combat the spread of the virus.

Keystone-SDA/sb

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