Swiss business groups have welcomed government measures that seek to control a second wave of Covid-19 without resorting to the enforced closure of companies.This content was published on October 19, 2020 - 10:25
Numbers of infected people have risen sharply in recent weeks, prompting the federal authorities to intervene once again on Sunday. But the new measures have fallen well short of the lockdown that was imposed on households and business earlier in the year.
The government has tightened the rules on mask wearing, contained private gatherings without masks to no more than 15 people, recommended teleworking and ordered diners to only eat whilst seated in restaurants and bars. Canton Bern has restricted public events to no more than 1,000 people, with other cantons expected to follow suit.
The Swiss Business Federation (economiesuisse) said it “supports the coordinated approach of the federal government and the cantons. If implemented consistently, the increased protective measures will be an efficient step towards fighting the pandemic. And they are an important contribution towards preventing a second lockdown.”
Casimir Platzer, head of the hospitality association Gastrosuisse, said the risk of infections at eating establishments was small thanks to the seating requirements. “Many companies are already struggling to survive. Another lockdown or other economically unsustainable restrictions would put the existence of the hospitality industry in doubt,” he said.
The restaurant and bar industry has already lost 33,000 jobs as a result of the pandemic, he added.
Several other countries, most notably in Europe, have enforced more stringent measures to nip a second wave in the bud. This includes city-wide and regional lockdowns in some areas.
Rudolf Hauri, president of the Association of Cantonal Doctors, said the government’s measures have hopefully arrived just in the nick of time. Several hospitals have already warned that they are nearing over-capacity due to the increased number of coronavirus patients, but Hauri said the situation across the country as a whole was under control.
Asked by Swiss public broadcaster SRF whether they will have a positive impact, he replied that it “depends above all on how well the measures are implemented and how well the population supports them.”
This is a view echoed by the Swiss trade union Unia. Spokesman Nico Lutz told SRF that mask wearing and social distancing measures ordered for the workplace would only carry weight if companies followed such instructions. He warned that many construction sites have been too lax at protecting workers.
Financial support from the government has so far prevented a wholesale wave of companies collapsing. Figures from the research agency bisnode show that bankruptcies in the first nine months of the year are actually a fifth lower than the same period of last year.
But the figures show that some sectors - notably hospitality, construction and furniture - have suffered more than other industries. Businesses across the board have so far been helped out by bail-out loans and subsidised wages for workers put on shortened hours. Companies have also been given more time to pay off debts while the usual bankruptcy rules have been relaxed.