Coronavirus: Federal Council does not want a general obligation to wear a mask
Bern, 22.04.2020 - Over the next few weeks, the Federal Council will gradually relax the measures to protect against the new coronavirus. There is no general obligation to wear a mask. Keeping a safe distance and washing hands remain the most effective protective measures. These are the provisions the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) informed the Federal Council of at its meeting of 22 April 2020. The branches and businesses are obliged to accompany the relaxation with protection concepts which may include the use of masks. Starting next week, the Confederation will supply one million hygienic masks to leading retailers every day for two weeks to support sufficient supply.
Healthy people still do not need to wear masks in public spaces. The previous rules of conduct regarding distance and hygiene are still crucial to protect against the corona virus. As before, it is advised to stay at home, especially for sick people.
The gradual relaxation of measures to combat the corona virus should be accompanied by protection concepts. These have to be developed by the branches themselves and can include the recommendation to wear a mask. All companies and event organizers must have a protection concept that is based either on an industry concept or on the requirements of the FOPH and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco). The cantons are responsible for checking compliance with the protection concepts on site.
Mask protects others
Hygienic masks primarily protect other people and only to a limited extent the person who wears them. That is why the mask is only useful in combination with physical distancing and hygienic rules. The Federal Office of Public Health is thus following the recommendations of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
Medical masks (FFP2, FFP3) are still primarily intended for medical personnel who have been trained in their correct use. Textile masks (community masks or mouth guards) should not be home-made. Industrially manufactured textile masks should meet the recommendations of the Science Task Force Covid.
Purchase of masks
Healthcare providers, companies and private households are responsible for the procurement of their own masks. The Confederation is in contact with retailers to ensure they can ensure sufficient supply of masks in the coming weeks and gradually expand it. As an initial impulse, the army pharmacy will be supplying one million hygienic masks to leading retailers every day for two weeks starting next week. If procurement cannot be met through normal channels, the Confederation provides subsidies, if possible. To date, the army pharmacy has distributed 21 million hygienic masks to the cantons. The Federal Councils current inventory comprises 18 million hygienic and 1.2 million FFP2 masks. These numbers will be continuously expanded.
Range restrictions in the retail trade remain
The Federal Council also decided today that the existing product range restrictions in grocery stores continue to apply. In doing so, it reverts its decision of April 16 to ease the restrictions of the product range. As part of the transition strategy, the Federal Council had decided that as of April 27, everyday goods and other goods may be sold if they are in the same sales area of grocery products. This decision had raised many questions, including unequal treatment of large retailers vis-à-vis specialist shops. These are expected to reopen on May 11th.
Limitation of medically non-urgent treatments and examinations
After consultation with the cantons, the Federal Council today also regulated the question of restricting medically non-urgent treatments and examinations in hospitals. On April 16, the Federal Council had lifted a corresponding national ban as of April 27 and allowed the hospitals to carry out so-called election interventions. The cantons are still obliged to ensure sufficient capacities for the treatment of patients with COVID 19. Cantons can now chose to restrict interventions themselves and, as previously, oblige public and private hospitals to provide additional capacities. The hospitals must also keep a sufficient supply of important medical products for COVID-19 patients and for other urgent medical treatments.
Due to the epidemiological situation, the Federal Council authorized the Canton of Ticino to extend the restrictions on economic sectors until May 3, 2020.
Address for enquiries
Federal Office of Public Health FOPH,
FOPH Coronavirus Infoline +41 58 463 00 00