Covid-19: Length of civil protection to increase to 14 years

A Swiss civil protection worker handing out face masks Keystone

The Swiss government has extended the period of compulsory service for civil protection personnel to 14 years, having recently reduced it from 20 to 12. This is to ensure that enough such personnel are available during the second wave of Covid-19.

This content was published on October 22, 2020 - 09:59

The extension was carried out in close consultation with the cantons, Christoph Flury, deputy director of the Federal Office for Civil Protection, told Swiss public radio, SRFExternal link, on Thursday. It aims to ensure that the civil protection service has enough people at its disposal next year.

Men with Swiss citizenship who do not perform military or civilian service are required to undertake civil protection activities, which include helping out in the event of disasters, offering security at major events and performing general community-based tasks.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, civil protection personnel have been deployed in individual cantons, for example to help with contact tracing. However, because recruitment figures have been falling for years, the cantons now fear that not enough people will soon be available.

A revision to the Civil Protection Act, due to come into force in 2021, reduced the service duration from 20 years to 12 years. As a precautionary measure, however, the government had included in the new law the possibility of re-extending it.

The Federal Office for Civil Protection estimates that around 6,000 civil protection personnel are needed annually to keep the total at 72,000 people. With the now extended compulsory service, an additional 10,000 people will be available next year, it said. Many of them may have to re-enlist, despite having supposedly fulfilled their duties.

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