The Swiss army has been given an CHF800 million ($830 million) mandate to locate and import medical supplies, such as face masks, during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a newspaper report.
The Tages Anzeigerexternal link newspaper says the decision to bring in military procurement support was taken by the government in mid-March, around the time it ordered a nationwide shutdown of schools and non-essential businesses.
According to the newspaper, one of the priorities is to bring up to 400 million medical masks to Switzerland by the end of May. Swiss International Air Lines, which has already been transporting medical supplies from China in recent weeks, would likely be part of the exercise.
China is the probable source of much of the medical material that Switzerland will need in the coming months, the media report states. Despite some Swiss companies turning their efforts towards producing medical equipment, such as masks, there is a current shortage in the country, reports Swiss public broadcasterexternal link SRF.
On Thursday, government ministers will outline how the country will gradually relax lockdown measures over the coming weeks. Media reports say a three-stage plan will be presented to restore normal activities.
Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga had earlier said the easing of emergency measures may be accompanied by other precautions, such as a demand for people to wear face masks in public. Should this be the case, the Tages Anzeiger predicts in its report that some 400 million masks will need to be imported.