Coronavirus: Federal Council declares ‘extraordinary situation’ and introduces more stringent measures

Bern, 16.03.2020 - At an extraordinary meeting today, 16 March 2020, the Federal Council took the decision to introduce more stringent measures to protect the public. It has declared that an ‘extraordinary situation’ now exists in Switzerland in terms of the Epidemics Act. All shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment and leisure facilities will remain closed until 19 April. Not affected by the new ruling are food stores and healthcare institutions. As of midnight, it is also introducing checks on the borders to Germany, Austria and France. The Federal Council has also authorised the deployment of up to 8000 members of the armed forces to assist the cantons at hospitals and with logistics and security.

In view of the accelerated spread of the coronavirus, the Federal Council is introducing more stringent measures to protect the public. It has now declared that an ‘extraordinary situation' exists in Switzerland in terms of the Epidemics Act. This allows the Federal Council to order the introduction of uniform measures in all cantons. The cantons were given prior notice of the move.

As of midnight tonight, all public and private events are prohibited. All shops, markets, restaurants, bars and entertainment and leisure facilities, such as museums, libraries, cinemas, concert halls and theatres, sports centres, swimming pools and ski areas are to close. Also affected are businesses at which the recommended distance cannot be maintained, such as hairdressers and cosmetics studios.

Provision of the entire population with foodstuffs, medicinal products and essential everyday items is assured; there are sufficient stocks. Food stores, takeaway businesses, company canteens, food home delivery services and pharmacies will remain open, as will petrol stations, railway stations, banks, post offices, hotels, public administrations and social institutions. Maintenance facilities for means of transport may remain open. However, all of these establishments must follow the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health on hygiene and keeping your distance. Hospitals, clinics and medical practices will remain open, but must forego non-urgent medical procedures and treatments. People at
especially high risk should work from home. If that is not possible, they are to be placed on leave by their employers, but will continue to receive their pay.

The new Ordinance on Measures to fight the Coronavirus also clarifies the question of child day-care facilities. The cantons are required to ensure that childcare is provided for children who cannot be looked after privately. Child day-care facilities may only be closed if other suitable arrangements exist. This measure will apply for the time being until 19 April. School closures will also now apply until this date.

The Federal Council is also calling on members of the public to avoid all unnecessary contact, to keep their distance from others, and to follow the recommended hygiene measures. It is calling on the elderly in particular to remain at home.

Up to 8000 members of the armed forces to assist with healthcare, logistics and security
The Federal Council is expecting that the civilian authorities will require significant support from the armed forces in the coming days and weeks. In order to respond to requests from the cantons, the Federal Council is raising the upper limit for civilian support services from 800 to 8000 members of the armed forces. This measure will apply until the end of June.

The armed forces will be able to support the healthcare system by providing medical services, particularly patient care, patient supervision, ambulance services and hospital logistics (e.g. disinfecting beds, as well as kitchen, laundry and cleaning services). Secondly, the armed forces can if necessary take on logistical tasks such as transport services, and assist in the construction of improvised infrastructures. Thirdly, in terms of security they can relieve pressure on the cantonal police services, for example by providing additional support regarding embassy protection, or by assisting the Border Guard at border crossings and at airports.

Around 3000 members of the armed forces will be made available to provide medical service support. They will be deployed immediately. The exact number of armed forces personnel deployed will depend on how the situation develops and on requests from the relevant authorities.

Conscript formations with high readiness to be mobilised
Military units that are currently on active service will be deployed first. The time spent on service for recruit schools, single-term conscripts and refresher courses will be extended wherever necessary. For certain duties, additional troops will need to be mobilised. This applies in particular to members of conscript formations with high readiness, including all four hospital battalions and five medical units. These formations can be deployed within four days of the decision to mobilise. The order to mobilise will be issued later today.

In order to be able to respond quickly and effectively to further developments and the needs of civilian authorities, the Federal Council has also authorised the DDPS to mobilise other troops in addition to conscript formations with high readiness. This may mean that certain troops will be mobilised only temporarily, so that they can be trained for deployment as a precautionary measure. After a few days' training, they will be released from duty and can be called up again at a later date if requested by the cantons.

Border checks
The Federal Council has decided to introduce checks at the borders with Germany, Austria and France as of midnight tonight, and impose entry bans, albeit with exceptions. On Friday, it had already imposed Schengen border controls on persons entering from Italy. Entry to Switzerland from its four large neighbours is now only possible for Swiss citizens, persons holding a residence permit for Switzerland and persons who have to enter Switzerland for work-related reasons. Transit and goods traffic will continue to be allowed as well. Lastly, people will also be able to enter Switzerland in emergency situations. These measures are intended to protect the Swiss population and maintain capacities in the Swiss health service. In order to implement these measures in a targeted manner, smaller border crossings around the country will be closed and cross-border traffic channelled through larger crossings. A list of these crossings will be published by the Federal Customs Administration.

The Federal Council will continue monitor the situation closely. It has tasked the FDJP to work with the FDHA and the FDFA to consider extending border checks and entry bans to travellers from other countries severely affected by the spread of the coronavirus.


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Last modification 12.02.2020

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