Swiss army prepares to deploy to help coronavirus response

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Switzerland’s militia army is getting ready to increase its support in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 1,500 people nationwide.

For the first time, the Swiss army will deploy one of its four hospital battalions – 600 soldiers – on March 16 to support other civilian hospitals; it can welcome 200 patients.

Army chief Thomas Süessli said the deployment was a “special service towards the service and protection of us all”.

Since March 9, the army has already sent 23 people to support two hospitals at Bellinzone and Lugano in canton Ticino, in southern Switzerland bordering Italy. They are helping look after patients and provide materials, which includes respiratory devices. But the army believes other cantons will soon request additional support.

It is unclear how many army personnel will be deployed but several hundred are expected, according to an army spokesperson.

The virus is spreading throughout Switzerland. More than 1,500 cases were reported as of March 14 by federal authorities, as well as 14 deaths. Most victims were elderly people with pre-existing health conditions.

Switzerland has closed schools throughout the country and imposed a ban on public gatherings of more than 100 people. The government pledged CHF10 billion ($10.6 billion) in emergency aid to support the economy and re-introduced in principle border checks with neighbouring countries.

Read more via Swissinfo


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