Switzerland enacts new restrictions, mask rules to slow Covid-19 pandemic

The duration of the new measures is indefinite, the Swiss government said.
The duration of the new measures is indefinite, the Swiss government said.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

ZURICH (REUTERS) - Switzerland on Wednesday tightened nationwide restrictions to contain the country's rising wave of Covid-19 cases, ordering dance clubs to be closed from Thursday (Oct 29), halting in-person university classes starting early next month, and placing new limits on sporting and leisure activities.

The duration of the new measures - which include the requirement to wear masks in offices where distance cannot be maintained, secondary schools and even outdoors if people come too close together - is indefinite, the government said.

Events will be limited to 50 people or less, and sporting and cultural activities with more than 15 people will be banned. Bars and restaurants must close at 11pm.

The country also plans to deploy rapid Covid-19 tests, more of which are coming onto the market, to help expand screening capacity stretched by rising cases in recent days.

Coronavirus infections rose by 8,616 in a day, data from Swiss health authorities showed on Wednesday.

"Covid-19 cases are rising," President Simonetta Sommaruga told a news conference in Bern. "We don't have any time to lose. The damage to the economy would be greater if we were to do nothing now."

Despite the new measures, the country will for now refrain from expanding measures to support business after concluding existing programmes are sufficient to soften the pandemic's blow, the government said.

"Due to the increasing number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, the Federal Council (cabinet) has tightened measures to contain the virus," the government said.

"This also has an impact on that economy. Unlike in spring, however, the Covid-19 law that Switzerland has in place includes targeted measures necessary to soften the pandemic's economic impact. There is still room to manoeuvre."