Swiss cantons call for federal crisis taskforce

Covid-19 caused some tensions between cantons and the government, such as whether to open ski resorts during the pandemic. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

The Swiss government should set up a crisis management team to help deal with emergencies like the coronavirus pandemic, say cantons.

This content was published on May 6, 2022 - 16:18

The recommendation arises from a cantonal assessment of the response to the pandemic over the last two years. The report, issued on Friday, specifically looked at coordination between cantons and the federal government.

Covid-19 tested Switzerland’s federal political structure that affords cantons a large degree of autonomy over local decisions. But this arrangement was largely over-ruled by the government invoking the Epidemics Act, which handed crisis control to the central authorities.

On Friday, heads of Switzerland’s 26 cantons agreed that centralised national coordination in such an emergency is preferable to every region setting its own rules.

They added the proviso that any measures ordered by the government should also be funded from federal coffers, rather than by cantons.

The cantons also feel the government would be better prepared for emergency situations if it set up a permanent crisis taskforce that would ideally be spread among all ministerial departments.

And communication should also be improved to avoid confusion and tension, the report stated.

The health ministry issued its own report on April 26External link about the handling of the pandemic. It found that national and the cantonal governments had "essentially coped well" during the pandemic and that their policies had been adequate.

But the report criticised the lack of preparedness for the pandemic and some decisions, such as the order to shut down schools in the spring of 2020.

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