Coronavirus: Swiss Govt. takes extraordinary measures to address "extraordinary situation"

The Federal Councilors at the press conference on Monday

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SWITZERLAND: As a result of the increased spread of the coronavirus, (COVID-19) the Swiss government has declared a state of emergency “extraordinary situation” and taken extraordinary measures to counter the spread of the virus across the country. 

The measures include closing of all restaurants, bars, entertainment and leisure facilities and a ban on all private and public events. However grocery stores, health facilities, bakeries, banks and post offices are excluded. The measures took effect at mid-night 17 March 2020 and lasts till 19 April 2020.

The closure of borders with Germany, Austria and France as well as the closure of schools and higher institutions are in place. 

Public and private events are also prohibited  while shops, markets, restaurants, bars as well as entertainment and leisure facilities such as museums, libraries, cinemas, concert and theater houses, sports centers, swimming pools and ski areas are closed, so also businesses like hairdressing salons and cosmetic studios.

There will be supply of food items, medicines and everyday necessities. Grocery stores, take-away, company canteens, delivery services for meals and pharmacies remain open, so also petrol stations, train stations, banks, post offices and public administration. Hospitals and clinics are open but only for urgent and emergency services. The government has approved the deployment of up to 8,000 members of the army to support the cantons in hospitals, logistics and security matters.

All of these institutions must keep to the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health regarding distance and hygiene. Hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices remain open, but to attend to urgent or emergency cases. 

Individuals with higher risk of complications from the virus, particularly “vulnerable people” have to work from home if possible, or take a paid leave of absence.

The government also regulates the question of daycare centers as amended on measures taken to combat the coronavirus. For children who cannot be looked after privately, the cantons have to provide the necessary care. Daycare centers may be closed only when there are other suitable options.

People are asked to avoid all unnecessary contacts, and to keep their distance between one another and follow the hygiene measures. Elderly people are advised to stay at home.

The government assumes that the need for civilian authorities to receive support from the army will increase significantly. In order to meet the anticipated requests from the cantons, it mobilizes 8,000 members of the army. They will be needed until the end of June 2020. They are expected to support the healthcare system with medical services, in particular with patient care and monitoring, medical transport, or hospital logistics (e.g. bed disinfection, kitchen, laundry, cleaning).

They will take on logistical tasks such as transportation and assistance in building improvised infrastructure if necessary; and will relieve the cantonal police corps in the area of ​​security, for example by providing more support for embassy protection, or by supporting the border guard corps at national borders and airports.

Around 3,000 members of the army are required immediately for medical support. The number of soldiers eventually required will depend on the situation and the requests.

 

Mobilization of military

The associations that are in the regular military service will be deployed. Recruit schools, assistants and repeat courses will be extended where necessary. In certain areas, additional troops have to be mobilized. This applies in particular to members of the army from militia formations who are willing. These formations include all four hospital battalions and five medical companies. 

In order to be able to react adequately to any further development of the situation in good time, the government authorized the deployment of troops that are not part of the militia formation with a high degree of readiness, as required by the civil authorities.

 

 Border controls

The government decided to control the borders with Germany, Austria and France from midnight of 17 March and to introduce entry bans with exceptions. It introduced Schengen border controls for travelers from Italy last Friday. Only Swiss citizens, people with a residence permit in Switzerland and people who have to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons can only enter Switzerland from the four large neighboring countries.

Transit and goods traffic are allowed. And people are allowed to enter in a situation of absolute necessity. This measure serves to protect the Swiss population and to maintain capacities in the Swiss healthcare system. To implement these tasks in a targeted manner, smaller border crossings will be closed across Switzerland and border traffic will be channeled to larger border crossings. A list of these border crossings is published by the Federal Customs Administration.

The government will continue to monitor the situation, border controls and entry bans to travelers from other countries severely affected by the spread of the coronavirus.

As at the time of filing this story 2,672 people are affected and 24 dead in Switzerland; 8,084 affected and 20 dead in Germany; 6,633 affected and 148 dead in France; 27,980 affected and 2,158 dead in  Italy; 1,211 affected and 4 dead in Austria; and 189, 055 affected and 7,511 dead worldwide.