Switzerland might increase 20bn franc emergency scheme: Finance minister

People use a pedestrian crossing in front of Saint-Pierre Cathedral in Geneva on March 20, 2020, as the Swiss government further tightened measures against COVID-19. (File/AFP)
Updated 29 March 2020

Switzerland might increase 20bn franc emergency scheme: Finance minister

  • The government has signed off on a 20-billion-Swiss-franc emergency scheme
  • The government has urged people to stay at home, imposed strict border controls and banned gatherings of more than five people

VIENNA: The Swiss government could increase a 20 billion Swiss francs ($21 billion) loan program to help keep companies afloat and safe jobs amidst the coronavirus crisis, the finance minister told weekly Sonntagsblick.

Like other European countries, Switzerland is pumping money into its crisis-hit economy. The government has signed off on a 20-billion-Swiss-franc emergency scheme under which companies can get state-backed, no-interest loans of up to 500,000 Swiss francs via their banks.

“It is possible that we might have to step this up,” Ueli Maurer said in an interview published on Sunday. “The 20 billion are tight.”

More than 30,000 loan applications have been submitted already, and guarantees worth more than 4 billion francs have been given on Thursday and Friday alone, the finance minister said.

Asked how much money the state was ready to provide, he said: “As much as is needed. We are borrowing to safe jobs.”

“If we do not pump money into the economy quickly, we will have tens of thousands of unemployed within weeks.”

Maurer had pointed out on Saturday that the government was happy to help with loans, but that the money must be paid back and could not cover income losses.

More than 13,000 coronavirus cases and 235 related deaths have been confirmed in the Alpine country of 8.6 million people.

The government has urged people to stay at home, imposed strict border controls and banned gatherings of more than five people to curb the epidemic’s spread.

Maurer said it was important to prepare now for how best to begin to ease the restrictions in public life. “The current situation is not sustainable in the long term, neither mentally nor economically.”


Malaysia reports 38 new coronavirus cases, one new death

Updated 39 min 21 sec ago

Malaysia reports 38 new coronavirus cases, one new death

  • The health ministry reported one new death, raising total fatalities to 117

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian health officials reported 38 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, taking the cumulative total to 8,304.
The health ministry also reported one new death, raising total fatalities to 117.