Staff treat a patient in the intensive care unit at the University Hospital (CHUV) during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)…
Staff treat a patient in the intensive care unit at the University Hospital (CHUV) during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lausanne, Switzerland, April 3, 2020.

ZURICH - The Swiss government on Friday boosted its powers to order companies to raise production of critical medical supplies like drugs and protective gear should more be needed in the fight against coronavirus-caused COVID-19.

"If the supply ... cannot be guaranteed otherwise, the Federal Council [cabinet] may oblige manufacturers to manufacture important medical goods, to prioritise the production of such goods or to increase the production quantities," according to an order from Bern.

The expanded authority comes as the government doubled the size of its coronavirus emergency loan scheme to 40 billion Swiss francs ($40.94 billion) after being flooded by requests for help by businesses. The nation's coronavirus deaths are nearing 500, with total confirmed infections approaching 20,000.

Swiss ministers also sought to speed access to medicines that could be used against COVID-19, allowing the drugs to be deployed in hospitals quickly before getting formal approval by the country's regulator, Swissmedic.

The exceptions cover generic malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine, which has been donated by Novartis, Abbvie's HIV drug Kaletra, Gilead Science's experimental remdesivir and Roche's Actemra, all of which are now being studied for potential use against the coronavirus.

Swissmedic also gets new powers to approve deviations from some legal requirements for drugs under review, the government said.

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