Swiss neutral conducts conscription to fight coronavirus | News | Instant News


By John Miller and Silke Koltrowitz

ZURICH (Reuters) – In the Swiss Army’s biggest call since World War II, thousands of troops have been sent to support health workers in the fight against the corona virus, but this mobilization is not without problems.

Hundreds of soldiers and officers have been locked up in barracks after being potentially infected.

And while around 80-90% of those who get orders march on March 16 answer the call of duty, more than 200 can face military justice for failing to report to their units, said Army Brigadier Raymond Droz.

In total, around 5,000 soldiers including members of the medical battalion supported civilian personnel.

They are particularly active in Ticino, an Italian-speaking region on the border with Italy where many of the 22,000 Swiss people are infected and 641 people have died.

Switzerland mobilizes up to 8,000 members of the military, not only for medical services but to help close its borders, help with logistics and provide security support during the crisis.

At present, 728 military personnel are in quarantine, said Droz, with 49 in isolation. A total of 172 soldiers tested positive, many of them at a school to recruit in Ticino.

Only one Swiss soldier tested positive during an active coronavirus.

Some have expressed concern that the army has little work, and have spent their time in hospital waiting rooms rather than actively assisting.

Speaking at a press conference in Bern, Droz said the army planned to deal with it, only guarding the soldiers needed for the task and sending others home “for the needed rest and recovery”.

Meanwhile, around 240 soldiers disobeyed their orders, which were sent via text message, Droz said.

“When everything has been sorted out – because in some cases, people get dispensation – these people will be reported to a military court,” he said. “Then, they will undergo a normal judicial process.”

Sentences imposed by military judges may include imprisonment.

A local politician described those who failed to heed the call as “traitors”.

(Reporting by John Miller, John Revill and Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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