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GENEVA

Five border crossings between Geneva and France re-open

After shutting down many border points with France, Swiss authorities have re-opened some of them to avoid bottlenecks.

Five border crossings between Geneva and France re-open
A picture taken on April 9, 2020 near Dardagny shows concrete blocks closing the border between Switzerland and France amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. AFP

As part of sweeping measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Council closed most of its borders with France, Germany, Austria, and Italy on March 16th and decided to restore border controls with these countries.

The decision to restrict entry to Switzerland was made to protect the population and maintain the capacities of the Swiss public health system.

But starting on Monday April 20th, the authorities are re-opening the border crossing points between Geneva and France. They are Mategnin, Soral II, Monniaz and Veigy (coloured red below).

However, the openings of these cross points will be limited to weekdays from 6 am to 9 am when entering Switzerland, and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. when leaving the Swiss territory.

The border crossing at Landecy will also be open at the same times although only the green lane.

The new re-openings are an addition to the already existing customs that are open seven days a week, 24 hours a day: Ferney-Voltaire, Meyrin, Perly, Bardonnex, Moillesulaz, Thônex-Vallard, and Anières (coloured green).

 

 

 

 

Seven crossings have also been open on part-time basis, from 6 am to 8 pm every day: Chancy 1, Soral 1, Croix-de-Rozon, Veyrier, Fossard, Mon-Idée, and Monniaz.

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Despite the increased number of border crossings between France and Geneva, however, entry is only still allowed for Swiss citizens, people with a residence permit, and people who have to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons, including those commuting to their jobs in Geneva on daily basis.

An estimated 85,000 French frontaliers are employed in Geneva. At the cantonal university hospital (HUG), for instance, 60 percent of personnel comes from France.

More than 67,800 Italians also work in Ticino, with about 4,000 employed in the canton’s healthcare sector. However, there are no new re-openings on that border at this point. 

In all, 130 border crossing points had been closed across Switzerland due to the pandemic. At those that remain open, checks are carried out to ensure that only eligible people enter Switzerland.

While the Federal Council announced the progressive lifting of current restrictions, it did not say when all Switzerland's external borders, including entry from non-EU and Schengen area countries will fully re-open. 

READ MORE: Switzerland sets date to begin easing coronavirus lockdown measures 

Health Minister Alain Berset noted that the decision “is not only up to us”, implying that the final say belongs to the European Union.

While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it belongs to the Schengen area — a bloc of 25 European countries, which abolished their internal borders for the free and unrestricted movement of people.

So far, the EU has not released the timeline for re-opening borders to non-essential travel from outside EU, calling for the current closures to stay in force until at least May 15th.

 

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GENEVA

Is Switzerland ‘pilfering’ health workers from France during pandemic?

Officials in the Haute-Savoie area of France have accused private Swiss health clinics of poaching essential healthcare workers.

Is Switzerland 'pilfering' health workers from France during pandemic?
Health care workers from France prefer to work on the Swiss side of the border. Photo by AFP

The headline in Switzerland's Le Temps newspaper reads: “Geneva is pilfering our nurses”.

It comes from an interview with a French MP who laments how France is losing health workers to its neighbour at the height of a health crisis.

“The behaviour of some hospital administrators in Switzerland is totally unacceptable in the context of the health crisis”, Haute-Savoie’s deputy Martial Saddier said in an interview with Le Temps newspaper. 

He was referring to a practice of Swiss clinics recruiting health workers in France which French officials like Saddier says has caused a shortage of personnel in French hospitals in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saddier denounced several private clinics in Geneva for actively recruiting nursing staff from Haute-Savoie, luring them with salaries that are about two and a half times higher than those paid in the French region.

Though the phenomenon of medical workers from Haute-Savoie ‘migrating’ to Geneva is not new — 60 percent of nursing staff at Geneva’s university hospitals (HUG) live in France — Saddier said these recruitments should not happen during the pandemic. 

“While the number of infected people may be high in Geneva, Haute-Savoie is not spared either, with rates among the highest in France. We need all our vital forces”, he said.

Olivier Teissèdre, director of Hôpital privé Pays de Savoie (HPPS) pointed out that already during the first wave of Covid-19, “350 of our caregivers were recruited in Geneva, which put us in great difficulty. Today I lost 4 percent of my staff and had to shut down a night shift”.

“Now the shortage of caregivers is crucially felt because the care of Covid-19 patients is particularly heavy”, he added.

READ MORE: IN PICTURES: Swiss flags hang over protesting French ski village 

At the start of the second wave, the HPSS set up a partnership with another Haute-Savoie medical facility, the Alpes-Léman public hospital.

“But we no longer have enough employees to maintain this partnership because there is too much movement of staff toward Switzerland”, Teissèdre said.

At the start of the pandemic, an agreement was reached with the Geneva authorities to stop recruiting medical personnel from France, but this commitment only concerns public hospitals. No such pact was made with private clinics.

Laurent Paoliello, spokesperson for Geneva’s Health Department said that while HUG, which is a public hospital, has respected the hiring freeze, the canton can’t impose similar restrictions on recruitment policies of private establishments.

“However, we consider it inappropriate to loot the region next door, especially during a pandemic”, he said.

Although the Haute-Savoie officials say that private hospitals have placed ads in a local newspaper, Le Dauphiné libéré, seeking French health care workers, Geneva’s clinics deny advertising in France.

“We only recruit through our site, or on Jobup.ch, as well as on social networks”, said Magali Dauwalder, spokesperson for the Hirslanden group of private hospitals, which manages La Colline et les Grangettes clinics in Geneva.


READ MORE: Switzerland rejects further coronavirus lockdown despite 'worrying' situation 

 

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