Swiss nationals in China feel lost in coronavirus outbreak

There are around 3,500 Swiss citizens in China registered with the Swiss authorities. Keystone / Alex Plavevski

A group of some 50 Swiss nationals in China have sent a letter to the Swiss government complaining that they feel forgotten by Swiss authorities during the Covid-19 outbreak.

This content was published on February 19, 2020 minutes

In the letter addressed to the Federal Council this week, a group of Swiss abroad complained about the quality of communication with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) during the outbreak, claiming that other countries were in much closer contact with their citizens.

According to Swiss public televisionExternal link, RTS, the signatories of the letter also deplore a lack of moral support, pointing out that they have been working daily and for years to strengthen relations between the two countries, but that since the outbreak believe they can’t count on Swiss authorities. The group cites the fact that they are offered information from the local government but that it is all in Chinese. They are also advised to see a general practitioner – something which is not common in China.

Unlike the five Swiss and three Chinese family members who were repatriated on Sunday, the group is not interested in leaving China as many have lived in the country for years, often with family and Chinese partners. Unlike some other countries, Switzerland does not advise its citizens to leave China.

On the same day, the Swiss Ambassador to China, Bernardino Regazzoni, released a video addressed to the Swiss abroad in China, in which he indicated that the government has been working since the beginning of the outbreak to support its citizens with the first most urgent priority being the evacuation of those who want to leave Hubei province, the epicentre of the health emergency.

He said that the foreign affairs department is available to support people 24 hours a day through a hotlineExternal link and WeChat.

There are about 3,500 Swiss nationals registered with the Swiss representation in China and a spokesperson from the FDFA confirmed that they have been in contact with them. She added that the information in the ambassador's video has been sent to Swiss nationals in other forms and that the FDFA is in the process of gathering the necessary information to respond to the letter in detail. 

The FDFA also stressed that they have also received expressions of thanks from Swiss nationals who are pleased with authorities’ support.

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