Switzerland has now strengthened its border control and entry restrictions as it tries to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Swiss government officials announced on Wednesday, March 18, that they will extend entry restrictions to Spain as well as halt air traffic from Italy, France, Germany, and Austria. All these countries are considered “high-risk” of the COVID-19.
Swiss officials also announced that they will suspend the issuance of all visas for an initial period of three months. The announcement came one day after the EU agreed on temporarily closing the external borders of the Schengen Zone. Exempt from visa suspension are the family members of Swiss citizens and specialists from the health sector, or other exceptional cases.
Among the measures Switzerland has taken to protect its citizens is the rationed selling of common painkiller and anti-fever drugs, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen. Starting now, for the next six months, everyone can only buy a packet a day of these drugs. The Swiss government insists that this is not due to a shortage of any medicine, but simply to prevent people from stock-piling and panic buying.
“It is a message to people not to buy too much and is designed to regulate the situation,” a Swiss government spokesman claimed. “There is no reason to panic buy.“
Switzerland is only the latest Schengen country to restrict entry to fellow Schengen Members. Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Malta were the first EU Members to introduce border checks with high-risk EU countries. Whereas, as of Monday, March 16, Germany has also placed land borders with Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Denmark, while Austria has banned entrance to Italian citizens.
Europe is currently the epicentre of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which originated in the Wuhan region of mainland China. Italy not only has the highest number of reported cases in Europe, but it also has the highest number of currently-active cases in the world.
As of March 19, there are more than 28,000 active cases of COVID-19 in Italy, out of 35,000 overall infections. In contrast, China which had more than 80,000 reported cases, only has a little more than 7,200 active cases left.