Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force: adapted mandate and new chair

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The Confederation will continue to draw on independent scientific expertise from academic and research circles during the ’special situation’ in accordance with the Epidemics Act. The FDHA General Secretariat and the Federal Office of Public Health have accordingly adapted the mandate of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force (SN-STF), which was set up during the epidemiological ’extraordinary situation’. From 1 August 2020, the Task Force will have a new chair in Prof. Martin Ackermann, expert in microbiology at the ETH Zurich and Eawag. The present head, Prof. Matthias Egger, will continue to act as an expert for the SN-STF, but in future will be focusing on his work as president of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation and as an lecturer in epidemiology at the University of Bern.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Council’s Coronavirus Crisis Unit (KSBC), the Federal Office of Public Health and the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation set up the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force (SN-STF) as a scientific advisory body at the end of March 2020. With the end of the ’extraordinary situation’ and the dissolution of the KSBC, the SN-STF no longer has the original official foundation for its continued existence.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) will continue with the tasks defined in the Epidemics Act during the ’special situation’. These include interdepartmental coordination and drawing on scientific expertise. Accordingly, the FDHA and the FOPH has adapted the mandate of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force, the general objective being to obtain independent scientific advice from the team of experts activated by the SN-STF.

The SN-STF will be headed from 1 August by its new chair, Prof. Martin Ackermann. Martin Ackermann is an expert in microbiology at the ETH Zurich and Eawag. He was formerly vice chair of the advisory panel coordinating the task force’s activities. The task force will continue to include experienced experts in relevant fields from Swiss academic and research institutions.

The Federal Council thanks the SN-STF for its work so far, and in particular its departing chair, Prof. Matthias Egger, who will continue to act as a task force expert but who will in future again be focusing on his work as president of the National Research Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation and as a lecturer at the University of Bern. Under his leadership, the 60 or so experts making up the task force have produced at least 40 scientific policy briefs answering questions raised by the authorities over the past three months. This voluntary and unremunerated work has considerably aided federal crisis management of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on its new mandate, the task force will also continue to provide the latest scientific knowledge so that COVID-19 can be contained and overcome in Switzerland.