In the run-up to Easter, the Federal Council will not change containment measures

Federal Councillor in charge of health, Alain Berset, along with Ueli Maurer et Ignazio Cassis,during press conference on 3rd of April | Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

At the press conference on Friday the 3rd of April 2020, the Federal Council announced several measures designed to keep the country in a state of vigilance because of Covid-19. Fearing that people will not follow the rules as vigilantly in the run-up to the Easter holidays, the Federal Councillor in charge of health, Alain Berset, invited citizens to travel as little as possible during the Easter period, and especially not to Ticino. The Confederation is also taking steps to monitor the stocks of medicines and medical devices in the cantons and to requisition them if necessary.

Why this is important. The containment measures adopted by Switzerland at the federal level are lighter than those taken by its western European neighbours and are based to a large extent on the support of the population. With the arrival of the holidays, the federal authorities fear that there will be a slackening of goodwill, which could have serious consequences for the health care system, and could result in an epidemic rebound in two or three weeks.

The plateau has not yet been reached. The number of infections continues to rise, and the peak of the epidemic has not yet been reached. There are now 19,303 infections in the country, with approximately 1,000 new cases today alone. Hospitalizations are up 15% compared to yesterday (+271 patients), at a total of 2180 beds. Alain Berset, the Federal Councillor in charge of health, argues that the situation is serious and requires the commitment of everyone, even during the Easter holiday period.

No holidays in Ticino. The Federal Council calls for social distancing measures to be respected and for travel restrictions. In particular, citizens are urged to avoid going to Ticino for holidays, so as not to overburden the health facilities in this canton, which has been badly affected by the epidemic. Alain Berset says that:

"In this situation, we have to hold firm. As a society, all of us together. Especially at this time, with the good weather coming, with April coming, and heading towards the Easter period, which is traditionally reserved for outdoor activities and meetings with families and relatives. Now, more than ever, we must continue the long-term work we have begun together."

Campsites will remain closed, even during the Easter period. Garden centres, which are closed to the public, will still be able to sell their products remotely, and will make them available via drive-in, at a time agreed in advance.

Due to the continuing tense situation in the canton, the exceptional economic restrictions in Ticino have been extended until the 13th of April.

Medical goods in the spotlight. Although this is normally the responsibility of the cantons, the supply of important medical goods will now be better regulated at the federal level.

In order to prevent bottlenecks in the supply of medical products which will combat the coronavirus epidemic, cantons are now obliged to keep the Confederation updated about their stocks of medicine and medical devices. In particular, this concerns:

  • stocks of surgical masks

  • ventilators and other breathing apparatus

  • diagnostic tests

  • protective clothing

  • certain drugs useful in the management of Covid-19

The ordinance also gives the Confederation the theoretical possibility of limiting exports, requisitioning medical equipment and distributing it equitably among the cantons.

Alain Berset wants to reassure the cantons that, while he does not rule out the use of such measures in order to support public health and national interests, he promises that decisions will be taken sparingly:

"We must have the tools at our disposal to enable us to react very quickly when necessary (...), but we always act with proportionality. (...) What is important in this case is public health (...) with all the means that are necessary to guarantee this health, including with instruments that are quite new in a state like Switzerland, but which must be used with proportionality. Their use must also be limited in time."

Urgent medicines on the market more quickly. The rules for placing promising new therapies and urgently needed medical devices on the market have been relaxed. This will allow medicines which are useful in the fight against coronavirus to be placed on the market more quickly.

A task force against domestic violence. The Federal Council has decided to set up a task force to monitor the impact of containment measures on domestic violence. Several cantons have already increased their accommodation places and employed additional staff to deal with the situation.

The doubling of assistance to companies in difficulty. Due to the numerous requests from cash-strapped companies, the Federal Council is asking the Parliament to agree to double the total commitment credit from 20 to 40 billion CHF. Companies in difficulty can participate in the guarantee programme, which grants bridging loans for Covid-19.

The Finance Delegation will examine this issue on the 7th of April 2020. To date, 76,034 loan agreements have already been concluded for a total estimated amount of 14.3 billion CHF.

Repatriation is continuing. The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs is making efforts to repatriate Swiss people abroad. Sixteen special flights have been organised so far, and five are planned between now and Sunday. A total of 3,700 people, including 2,100 Swiss nationals and 1,600 nationals from neighbouring countries, have already been repatriated. Around 10,000 additional nationals have indicated that they are abroad via the "Travel Admin" application. This operation is to continue.

Article translated from French by Boroka Zita Godley.