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Government plans to top up Covid-19 economic package

Planes by Swiss International Airlines and empty passenger area at airport
More than 86,000 companies, including Swiss International Airline, have filed for unemployment benefits due to reduced work hours. Keystone/Christian Beutler

The Swiss government is preparing an additional financial package to help the economy shaken by the coronavirus epidemic.

Economics Minister Guy Parmelin said the planned aid was aimed at supporting those small independent businesses that were ineligible for the first relief package of CHF20 billion (around 20.6 billion) presented two weeks ago.

“The government is prepared to provide more financial aid,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday. “There is no question that the economy will suffer because of the crisis, but the government wants to minimise the damage.”

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Parmelin said the finance ministry would present a proposal for additional funds by next Friday. For its part, the economics ministry has been mandated to define the criteria for new beneficiaries within a week.

The new package is destined for self-employed one-person ventures, including those in the cultural and the sports sector, as well as people working on demand. There are currently 330,000 people working as one-person ventures but 270,000 of them do not qualify for financial support, Parmelin said.

Unemployment payments

By the end of March, credits worth CHF11 billion ($11.5 billion) have been granted and more than 86,000 businesses applied for unemployment benefits covering reduced working hours. This represents nearly 20% of the Swiss work force.

“We are in the midst of a crisis – the worst to hit the Swiss economy since the Second world war,” said Parmelin.

The government wants to ensure that those people in the labour market most affected by the current crisis can survive, he added.

However, Parmelin again dismissed calls for tackling non-repayable loans and untargeted financial support. He said his ministry was considering measures to prevent abuses of the credits.

He also indicated that the government is preparing different scenarios to crank up the Swiss economy, gradually easing certain restrictions on businesses. 

Asylum

Meanwhile, the government has decided to continue processing asylum applications rejecting calls by human rights organisations for a moratorium. 

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said it was important to remain within the rule of law despite the Covid-19 epidemic.

Asylum requests will continue to be processed but adapted and deadlines will be extended, she said.

She also stressed that the asylum centres will house fewer people than under normal conditions to take into account the official health measures on social distancing.

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