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COVID-19 Targeted measures sought for Swiss firms hit by coronavirus

Fire fighter with mask

A fire fighter in the southern Swiss city of Lugano on Friday

(Keystone)

The Swiss government is working on directing support to companies hit by falling demand caused by the coronavirus outbreak and will not adopt a broad stimulus programme. 

“For us it is important that we don’t have some kind of helicopter moneyexternal link, subsidies or an economic programme that works only in the long term, not the short term,” Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch, director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), told Swiss public radio, SRF, on Saturday. 

SECO coordinates economic and labour market policy for the government. 

Government subsidies paid to staff put on short working hours by their employers have been shown to be an effective economic stabiliser, she said. 

The government was also looking to target support at companies such as event managers which are likely to be hit by government restrictions including a temporary ban on events which draw more than 1,000 people. 

Central bank 

Ineichen-Fleisch said supply chains were still functioning and company inventories were well stocked, but she added that this could change in a month, depending on the spread of the virus which has infected hundreds and killed one person in Switzerland so far. 

“The situation will leave marks on our economy, how deep we don’t know yet,” she said. 

Asked about calls for the Swiss National Bank to help address the widening economic impact, she said the central bank was independent and would make its own decisions.

On Saturday the Federal Office of Public Health reported 228 confirmed cases in Switzerland. On Thursday a 74-year-old woman, who had been hospitalised in Lausanne, died as a result of the disease – so far the only death in the country.


Reuters/ts

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