The current COVID-19 pandemic presents huge challenges for Switzerland and its health system. The Swiss scientific community has a high potential to positively influence on how this crisis develops in a number of ways, including through research, education and knowledge transfer. Scientists in Switzerland are keen to help overcome the crisis and make their expertise available to the federal and cantonal authorities as efficiently and effectively as possible.
The Swiss National COVID-19 Task Force has therefore been set up by the Federal Council Coronavirus Crisis Unit, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation SERI and the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH. Headed by Matthias Egger, president of the National Research Council at the Swiss National Science Foundation SNSF, the task force will act as an advisory body to the Federal Council, the head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs FDHA, and to the federal and cantonal offices concerned. Its members do not represent the higher education institutions to which they are affiliated but are instead selected on the basis of their specialist expertise.
The Swiss National COVID-19 Task Force has the following tasks in particular:
- To provide appropriate scientific advice to politicians and administrators making decisions about action to be taken in the COVID-19 crisis. At federal level, the decision-makers are primarily the FDHA/FOPH, the Federal Council Coronavirus Crisis Unit and the EAER/SERI. With the agreement of these authorities and in coordination with them, the task force will also be available to advise the cantonal authorities.
- To identify research topics in which the Swiss scientific community can rapidly make a significant contribution to understanding and combating COVID-19. For example, providing specialist advice to SERI in developing a special measure via the National Research Programme (NRP) funding instrument.
- To identify special measures that can be introduced to encourage innovation, with the aim of exploiting Swiss scientific know-how to rapidly generate products and services in order to effectively combat COVID-19.
The Task Force makes use of an initiative recently set up in the ETH Domain, and combines initiatives and expertise from the SNSF, swissuniversities and the Academies. Topics to be addressed include diagnostics, clinical care and research, contact tracing by means of new digital applications that are to be developed and tested, as well as ethical and legal issues.
The proposed activities will be financed via the organisations’ ordinary budgets, whereby more extensive expert reports may be commissioned. The regular research and innovation funding instruments should be used in the first instance wherever possible.