Covid-19: Information for SMEs

The number of cases of coronavirus infection is increasing worldwide, and with it uncertainty. What do Swiss and Liechtenstein exporters need to be aware of and where can they get financial assistance in the event of liquidity troubles? This continuously updated overview offers orientation and assistance. 7.4.2020


 

Financial Support

Financial Support

At the moment we are receiving numerous questions about the support of the economy due to the spread of the coronavirus. Here you will find an overview with relevant links and contact persons, which we update continuously:

  • Many companies are currently experiencing financial difficulties. During its meeting on 25 March 2020, the Federal Council addressed the issue of liquidity assistance for SMEs, which should have rapid access to credit facilities to bridge liquidity shortfalls caused by the new coronavirus pandemic. Companies are advised to apply for the credit facilities at their main bank. The corresponding ordinance enters into force on 26 March 2020, from which date credit applications can be submitted.
  • Credits of up to CHF 500,000 will be fully secured by the Confederation, and will be paid out quickly and with the minimum of bureaucracy. Zero interest will be charged. The credit application form is available on the website "covid19.easygov.swiss".
  • The cantons have put additional measures into place to support the economy. You can find the right addresses here.
  • Start-ups that were founded before 1.3.2020 and have not yet recorded turnover can also benefit from this.
  • On this overview page the Confederation is providing information on measures being planned. The most recent package of measures is described in the media release on March 20. SECO has set up a hotline where companies can obtain information: +41 58 462 0 66, Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. You can also send a message using the contact form or via email (coronavirus@seco.admin.ch).
  • Switzerland Global Enterprise supports Swiss SMEs in their international business. In these difficult times we and our partner network support our customers with targeted digital information and advice – such as this article – country-specific consulting and practical support in the target countries.

The Federal Council is stepping up measures to prevent hospitals from being overloaded with serious cases of coronavirus disease. In a meeting held on March 20, 2020, it decided to ban gatherings of more than five people.

Practical overview from Credit Suisse regarding bridge loans

Our premium partner is there for you even in challenging times and, together with the Swiss government and other banks, has developed measures to provide quick and uncomplicated support for Swiss companies affected by the coronavirus. Companies that are not yet customers must first open a relevant account in order to take out a bridge loan.

Grants for organizers and participants of trade fairs and events

  • Are you an organizer of events or trade fairs in Switzerland who has been forced to cancel them?
  • Do you organize joint Swiss trade fair presences abroad and have had to cancel them?
  • Do you have to accept painful losses because you are unable to participate in trade fairs or events in Switzerland or abroad?
     
  • Many companies are currently experiencing financial difficulties. During its meeting on 25 March 2020, the Federal Council addressed the issue of liquidity assistance for SMEs, which should have rapid access to credit facilities to bridge liquidity shortfalls caused by the new coronavirus pandemic. Companies are advised to apply for the credit facilities at their main bank. The corresponding ordinance enters into force on 26 March 2020, from which date credit applications can be submitted.
  • Credits of up to CHF 500,000 will be fully secured by the Confederation, and will be paid out quickly and with the minimum of bureaucracy. Zero interest will be charged. The credit application form will be available on the website "covid19.easygov.swiss" from Thursday, after the ordinance enters into force.
  • The cantons have put additional measures into place to support the economy. You can find the right addresses here.
  • On this overview page the Confederation is providing information on measures being planned. The most recent package of measures is described in the media release on March 20. SECO has set up a hotline where companies can obtain information: +41 58 462 0 66, Monday to Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. You can also send a message using the contact form or via email (coronavirus@seco.admin.ch).

Have you registered for a Swiss Pavilion organized by Switzerland Global Enterprise that has been canceled or postponed?

  • Under the program to support the economy, the Federal Council has also requested funds from parliament; these will cover advance payments made on behalf of the Confederation for stand construction, stand rental, etc., which S-GE would have normally had to pass onto you, where these costs are not reimbursed by the trade fair organizer. We will inform the affected companies directly about the exact procedure as soon as possible. Currently, the Confederation is still in the process of clarifying the next steps. If you have any urgent questions in the meantime, please contact your dedicated project manager at S-GE directly.

Your Contacts in Switzerland

Strategy

Strategy

What can you as an SME do to deal with the situation properly? SECO's SME portal offers useful guidelines to download and on our website we regularly publish relevant information for you.

Our team of consultants is available to answer all your questions at any time - whether it is operational legal clarifications in your target market, strategic questions about your international orientation or the right contact person for a problem in Switzerland. 

Swissmem: order referral service

Company supply chains can be affected by unforeseeable events such as the coronavirus, storm damage, delivery bottlenecks and so on.

The order referral service facilitates a closer exchange between companies. Its aim is to refer available resources, services and products to the companies that need them in order to overcome delivery bottlenecks. This option is open to Swissmem and non-Swissmem companies from Switzerland and abroad.


PwC’s COVID-19 Navigator

Assess the potential impact to your business and gauge your readiness to respond:
COVID-19 (coronavirus) presents significant challenges to people and organizations around the globe and the disruption continues to evolve. It’s important that we prepare for, respond to, and ideally emerge stronger from this “new normal.” PwC’s team of specialists collaborated to create a digital assessment to help you understand the potential impact to your business and gauge your readiness to respond.

How can we support you?

If you have any questions about financial support, logistics or strategy, let us know. As experts in internationalisation, we are at your side in these uncertain times.

Contacts
Logistics

Logistics and entry regulations

Current tips and information

  • Temporary trade measures enacted by government authorities in relation to COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spreading across the world.
  • Helpful overview by the EU Commission on border controls and transport restrictions in the Member States, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland.
  • Ceemet has created a COVID 19 page that gives an overview of the arrangements made so far at national level. The page is constantly updated.
  • Clarify with the goods recipient whether deliveries can be accepted and provide the carrier with a contact person. At the moment, it may be the case that deliveries cannot be unloaded/delivered. This fills up the transport companies' warehouses and causes cost and space problems.
  • The Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission is taking further measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection: the import duty rate for certain medical products is set at zero percent – this measure is set to initially apply until 30 September 2020.
  • Various airlines - including SWISS - have approached S-GE with special offers for special transport solutions. We would be happy to help you further.

Important information about cargo pooling for goods from China to Switzerland
 
If you are interested in partaking in cargo pooling, please contact FRACHT AG airfreight-manager Sebastian Furler, who will take the lead and coordinate the operations with all parties involved.
 
In your first outreach, FRACHT AG needs the following information:

  • Contact person of the buyer in Switzerland
  • Name of the supplier with all contact details as well as the order-no.
  • Cargo details such as no. of cartons, measurements, weight
  • Date of readiness of the cargo

The process for cargo pooling from China to Switzerland has been launched in a tripartite collaboration between FRACHT AG, SWISS cargo and the Embassy of Switzerland in China. The aim is to enable Swiss parties with smaller cargo capacity needs to access chartered flight solutions by pooling cargo needs together, using the full capacity of charter flights from China to Switzerland.

List of open border crossings and 'green lanes' updated by the Swiss Federal Customs Administration (FCA).

With immediate effect, the FCA is implementing the following measures to reduce the burden on its corporate customers:

  • For payment by installments, the customer's financial situation will be taken into account
  • Waiver of increased collateral in case of a shortfall in collateral
  • Refund of cash deposits in cases of excess collateral
  • Suspension of all reminders
  • Waiver of reminder fees and interest on arrears
  • Legal freeze on debt enforcement until April 4, 2020  
  • Clarify with the goods recipient whether deliveries can be accepted and provide the carrier with a contact person. At the moment, it may be the case that deliveries cannot be unloaded/delivered. This fills up the transport companies' warehouses and causes cost and space problems.
  • From March 22-29, 2020 all airports in India will be closed to passenger aircraft. According to current information, only full freighters will be allowed to fly. This measure severely restricts freight capacity.
  • The Council of the Eurasian Economic Commission is taking further measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection: the import duty rate for certain medical products is set at zero percent – this measure is set to initially apply until 30 September 2020.

How logistics has reacted

DHL Global Forwarding (DGF) provides us with updates on impact of the COVID-19/Coronavirus outbreak on DHL Global Forwarding’s operations in China, Italy and South Korea as well as the impact on Air, Ocean and Rail Freight transportation.

Entry stop China

Foreigners who have a valid visa or residence permit may no longer enter the People's Republic of China after 28 March 2020. You can find more details here.

Travel ban

Due to the announced travel ban to the USA, commercial airlines will probably react in a similar way as they did in Asia: by reducing service.
So far there is no confirmation that DHL's partner airlines are no longer accepting freight bookings. However, it is getting extremely difficult to find enough space for export shipments. DHL is currently organizing charter solutions to the USA, but cannot yet offer scheduled departures. Each export shipment must be checked individually.

Operational Update for Air Freight


Exporters must observe the following in the wake of the travel ban, as our strategic partner SERV writes:

  • Regularly clarify the situation regarding logistics and transport options to the destination country with your forwarder. Are there any delivery delays or even supply disruptions that need to be communicated to the customer?
  • Check the agreed terms in the letter of credit and adjust them if necessary. You should also get support from your bank for this.
  • Negotiate any contractual conditions with your customer that cannot be met due to the current situation.
  • Change the place of performance in the letter of credit to Warehouse/handover to forwarder with payment triggering document Warehouse Receipt/Forwarders Certificate of Receipt, instead of Airwaybill or Bill of Lading. To do this, you must change the Incoterms to FCA or EXW. Make sure that the storage costs go to the buyer.
  • Try to postpone transports/put them on hold
  • Organize return transport from the airport
  • Check all already-issued export documents (that the validity is also guaranteed in one month)
  • Do not hand over the goods to the forwarder (in the case of all Incoterms that are not FCA) if storage in your own company is possible; duty-free warehouses are expensive.

 
Penalty payments:

  • You may not demand penalty payments from buyers, as this situation (coronavirus) counts as force majeure. Exporters must take a clear position here, as this situation involves measures ordered by the state

These concern approaches that must of course be examined on a situational basis

Legal Questions

Legal Questions

Insurance cover for business disruptions due to COVID-19 (coronavirus): overview by SERV

Information from the World Trade Organization (WTO) on coronavirus: COVID-19 and world trade

Authorisation requirement for the export of medical protective equipment

On 25 March 2020, the Federal Council decided to introduce an authorisation requirement for the export of medical protective equipment.The corresponding amendment to COVID 19 Ordinance 2 came into force on 26 March 2020.  Exceptions from the licensing requirement exist for exports to the EU and EFTA area.

What impact does the package of measures have?

BDO Switzerland introduces and classifies the following measures from the comprehensive package of measures of the federal government:

  1. Liquidity support for companies
  2. Expansion and simplification of short-time working hours
  3. Compensation for loss of earnings for self-employed persons
  4. Compensation for loss of earnings for parents who have to care for children

Does the Coronavirus Count as Force Majeure?

BDO Switzerland explains how companies should react when contracts can no longer be fulfilled due to loss or interruption of production related to the coronavirus. Epidemics or other outbreaks of disease may constitute a case of “force majeure” such as that provided for in the force majeure clauses included in many contracts. If such an event occurs, the contracting party affected is temporarily or even permanently released from performing its contractual obligation, without the other contracting party being able to claim damages.
Both manufacturers and resellers can be affected, whether due to their own production losses or failures on the part of their suppliers. From a legal standpoint, you should:

  • check your relevant contracts for force majeure clauses;
  • know which contractual partners you must notify;
  • review the standard “force majeure” clause.

What services does AXA provide in relation to the coronavirus?

You can find the answers here

Guide for employers

Centre Patronal has published a guide for employers on the coronavirus, which answers important, practical questions on topics such as sick pay, the right to issue directives and short-time work compensation (in German and Fench only).

Health

Health

Guide for business travel provided by International SOS

Our strategic partner International SOS, the world’s leading provider of health and safety services for business travel and postings, has produced a practical short guide:

  • What is the coronavirus and how can infection be avoided?
  • What do your employees in affected areas need to know?
  • What should you consider when planning your trip?

Assessments of the situation and tips for business travellers can be found on the website.

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