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Swiss government wants extra CHF770 million to tackle coronavirus

Switzerland’s public transport system needs emergency funding to get through the crisis. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

The Swiss government has asked for an extra CHF770 million ($841 million) in funds to tackle the coronavirus fallout. This comes on top of the CHF31 billion in bailout funds approved by parliament since March.

The latest batch of funds is to cushion the economic impact of the pandemic in 13 areas. Some CHF288.5 million has been earmarked to pay for Covid-19 testing, but this amount can be offset against funds already allocated for procuring medical equipment, the government announced on Wednesday.

Another CHF221.3 million is needed to shore up the national railway system that has seen a huge drop in passenger numbers as a result of the pandemic. Air traffic control company Skyguide requires CHF400 million to make up for lost revenues resulting from reduced air transport. This would come in two tranches of CHF150 million this year, which parliament is being asked to produce now, and a further CHF250 million in 2021.

Also on Wednesday, the Federal Council (governing body) indicated its intention to extend the period that workers put on shortened hours can claim insurance for their lost earnings.

The government has forecast that the pandemic will cost Switzerland CHF20.9 billion by the end of the year. A greatly reduced tax income will blow an estimated CHF3.1 billion hole in funding for normal expenses.

An additional CHF17.8 billion of emergency funding is expected to be spent tackling coronavirus this year. Parliament has approved extraordinary expenditure of CHF30.8 billion, but it appears unlikely that all of this will need to be used.

The state is also underwriting up to CHF42 billion in loans for struggling businesses. This is due to be paid back, but the government has budgeted a CHF1 billion loss for this year as some companies are expected to go bust despite the loans.

Budget forecasting remains a difficult task as the course of the pandemic until the end of the year is uncertain.

Full story here
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