The Federal Council Adapts Some Of Its Deconfinement Measures

Federal Councillors Ueli Maurer, Viola Amherd and Alain Berset on 22 April in Bern. | Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

The Federal Council, in the presence of Viola Amherd (Army), Alain Berset (Health) and Ueli Maurer (Finance), presented a number of adjustments to the measures planned to ease the lockdown, which will enter into force on 27 April. This concerns among other things: sports, the reopening of shops, and loss of earnings allowances for the self-employed. A new support program for start-up enterprises is also planned.

Why are we talking about this? The decisions taken by the Federal Council on 16 March have generated many reactions from various sectors. While the strategy of gradually relaxing the lockdown is well accepted, the Council wants to make certain adjustments, as well as clarify the plans for the end of the month and at the beginning of May.

The Changes

  • Food shops will not be able to expand their offerings from 27 April. Large retailers and small food stores will be able to continue selling food products, but will have to wait until 11 May, when all shops open, to expand their range of products. The aim is not to create inequality between the different shops. Alain Berset also spoke about the reopening of other shops on 27 April:

"These openings will be accompanied by protective measures for employees and customers. They are developed by the branches themselves. In addition, a standard set of protection measures will be published soon."

  • Elective (non-emergency) surgeries and outpatient consultations can resume on 27 April as planned. The cantons are free to organise themselves as they wish, but they must guarantee sufficient capacity (beds, resources and medicines) in the hospitals to continue caring for Covid-19 patients.

  • Sports activities without physical contact could resume from the beginning of May. Viola Amherd's services are working on a plan to make this area of activities more flexible.

  • Income Loss Insurance (ILI) for the self-employed will be extended until May 16. for those people who are self-employed and unable to fully resume activities.

Next week. Further decisions will be made in a week’s time, e.g. on April 29, concerning other possible relaxation of the lockdown measures, including for:

  • certain sports and cultural activities,

  • progressive opening in the catering and tourism sectors,

  • measures concerning major demonstrations, people's rights and borders will also be examined,

  • additional flexibilities for post-compulsory school programs.

The question of the masks. The Federal Council once again rejected any regulation that would require members of the public to wear a mask. Alain Berset announced that the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) was relying on the assessments of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), saying:

"Wearing a mask does not replace basic hand hygiene and social distancing measures."

Economic sectors that are developing protective measures could nevertheless make the wearing of masks compulsory.

The army’s pharmacy will deliver one million masks a day to the country's major retailers from next week on for 15 days, to ensure the supply of the entire country. The army has a stock of 18 million hygiene masks and 1.2 million FFP2 masks. The reserves will be regularly supplied.

Read also: Our overview of the mask issue.

What's next. The transition phase beginning Monday also marks a new phase in the evolution of the epidemic. Alain Berset:

"We want a gradual opening because we think that we might otherwise go back to strict measures to contain the epidemic. To do this, we need to test all people with symptoms of Covid-19. Those who test positive will be isolated and their contacts quarantined. This approach will be developed with the help of the cantons and of the testing labs."

Support to the start-ups. Ueli Maurer acknowledged that the country's start-ups had not yet been able to receive any, or very little, emergency support from the state. The Federal Council has therefore decided to include start-ups in the bonding system provided to SMEs. Ueli Maurer:

"A specific procedure will be proposed by 30 April at the latest."

A loan made by a start-up will be 65% guaranteed by the Confederation and 35% by the canton in which the start-up is located.

The final word. Alain Berset recalled that:

"Only if we manage to keep the epidemic under control, will we be able to continue to relax the measures."