The Federal Council proposes a three-stage deconfinement plan from the 27th of April onwards

Guy Parmelin, Simonetta Sommaruga et Alain Berset le 16 avril à Berne. | Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

In the greatly anticipated Federal Council's media conference on Thursday the 16th of April, Federal Councillors Simonetta Sommaruga, Alain Berset and Guy Parmelin presented a deconfinement strategy which will be implemented in three stages. The first stage is planned from the 27th of April onwards.

Why is this important? The country will enter a transitional phase from the last week of April. Some businesses will be able to reopen, including hairdressers, florists, DIY stores, and also outpatient doctors' surgeries, physiotherapists' surgeries and dentists' surgeries. Compulsory schools will open their classes to students from the 11th of May onwards. All shops and markets will also be able to reopen on this date. A third stage is planned for the 8th of June, in which upper secondary schools, vocational schools, universities, museums, zoos and libraries should be able to reopen, depending on how the situation develops.

The decisions made today are fairly specific, and are definite for the first two stages of deconfinement, which will take place on the 27th of April and the 11th of May. The details can be found below. The decisions for the 8th of June still have to be confirmed at the Federal Council meeting on the 27th of May.

From the 27th of April:

  • Hospitals will be able to function normally again for outpatient consultations and also for non-urgent operations.

  • City doctors, dentists and physiotherapists will also be able to function normally, with particular attention paid to protective measures.

  • Hairdressers, beauty, tattoo and massage parlours will also be able to reopen.

  • Self-service car washes will be able to re-open.

  • Florists, garden centres, nurseries and DIY stores may reopen.

  • Grocery stores that also sell other goods will be able to reopen their entire sales area.

  • People outside the families of the deceased will also be able to take part in funeral services.

All shops and medical practices will have to be able to guarantee the safety of their employees and customers or patients.

Employees should continue to work from home. In addition, social distance and hygiene measures will still have to be observed and those at risk must continue to remain isolated.

From the 11th of May:

If the number of people infected continues to decrease, further deconfinement measures will take place. A final decision for this stage will be taken on the 29th of April.

  • Compulsory schools will reopen.

  • All shops and markets will also be able to resume their activities.

Protective measures will have to continue to be respected. Schools and businesses should ensure that effective protection measures can be put in place.

From the 8th of June:

  • Upper secondary schools, vocational schools and universities will once again be able to welcome their pupils and students.

  • Museums, zoos, botanical gardens and libraries will also be able to reopen their doors on this date.

  • A relaxation of assembly measures could also take place on this date.

This June stage is subject to the evolution of the epidemic. If another outbreak is detected, the Federal Council may postpone the relaxation of these rules until a later date.

Accompanying measures. All relaxations must be accompanied by sector-specific protection plans. For example, depending on the sector, the wearing of masks will be mandatory. It is up to the sectors concerned to define these measures in accordance with the recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health.

For the compulsory schools, which are due to reopen on 11 May, the vice-president of the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education, Monika Maire-Hefti, points out:

"The cantons have one month to prepare and put in place the necessary security measures. That gives us a bit of time. We will have to think about hand hygiene: are single-use papers rather than cloths available in schools? How can we encourage children to wash their hands?

We will also have to find solutions for the vulnerable among teachers and pupils, address the issue of school transport, meals in the care facilities, extra-curricular activities. Adaptation of timetables and the idea of staggering recess times will also be considered."

Strategic management tools. To evaluate the deconfinement strategy decided on 16 April and to avoid a rebound in the epidemic, strategic management tools have been put inro place. The Federal Council will evaluate the hospital occupancy rate, the number of new infections and the number of deaths in order to move from one stage to the next. If these figures increase after the first easing, a return to the current situation cannot be ruled out.

The Federal Council's aim is to see a significant drop in the number of new cases, enabling the cantons to systematically trace the chain of transmission according to the following strategy:

  1. Track

  2. Treat

  3. Isolate

Screening will be increased quickly and a contact follow-up strategy is being developed.

Those who have been forgotten. Many freelancers were not eligible for assistance from the Confederation. The Federal Council has decided to extend the right to loss of earnings allowances to many self-employed persons. In order to be entitled to a maximum of CHF 196 per day, they must have an income of between CHF 10,000 and CHF 90,000. The allowance can be obtained retroactively.

The unknown. The subject of the summer's major events was discussed at the day's press conference, but no decision has yet been taken on the matter. The same applies to restaurants.

As far as borders, travel, swimming pools and infrastructure are concerned, "it is too early to discuss these points", according to President Simonetta Sommaruga.

The pace to be set. As it is impossible to know at what pace all sectors of the economy will be able to return to normal activity, Alain Berset made the following clarification:

"We will act as quickly as possible, and as slowly as necessary."

Translated to English by Boroka Zita Godley