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New anti-corona measures: restaurants closed, ski areas open

Restaurant in Lucerne, as seen Thursday, a day before the announcement Keystone / Urs Flueeler

Switzerland will close restaurants and bars for a month from Tuesday to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, while ski areas can remain open, the government says.

This content was published on December 19, 2020 - 16:46
SRF/Reuters/SWI swissinfo.ch/ilj

The move comes as surrounding countries like Germany and Austria go into lockdown over the Christmas period.

Shops will also remain open (with some restrictions), the government announced on Friday External linkafter a meeting to discuss the highly anticipated measures. Sports and leisure centres, as well as libraries, museums and other cultural institutions are to close.

Cantons which have a reproduction rate number under 1 or a 7-day case average that is under the Swiss average may relax the measures for restaurants and sports centres.

Pressure

The government has faced pressure to tighten public health measures as new infection numbers remain high, with hospitals warning that this is putting pressure on the healthcare system.

On Friday there were 4,478 new infections and 120 deaths, bringing to the total to over 6,000, the health authorities announcedExternal link. There have been more than 400,000 infections in the country since the pandemic started.The situation varies across cantons. 

Earlier this week, the head of the Swiss national Covid-19 science task forceExternal link urged the country to impose a second lockdown, echoing calls by other scientists, officials and medical professionals.

After easing strict measures imposed in March, Switzerland has refrained from ordering another shutdown, preferring the “special Swiss way” between health measures and keeping the economy going. It has been gradually tightening measures, ordering restaurants, bars and shops to close from 7pm across most of the country last Friday.

Ski resorts

Ski resorts can stay open, the government says. This stance has already angered the country’s neighbours who have shut theirs, citing concerns that skiing could lead to a spike in Covid cases.

However, cantons are in charge and must give permission for resorts to open. Ski areas face strict cantonal conditions related to hygiene and sanitation protection measures; local hospitals close to ski resorts must also be able to cope with any additional patients.

On Friday canton Lucerne said that it would already close its ski areas over Christmas due to the “very tense epidemiological situation” and the hospital situation, as did cantons Schwyz, Nidwalden, Obwalden and Zug. Ski areas will be closed from December 22-29 in these cantons. On Saturday, cantons Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Zurich, St Gallen and Uri followed suit. Larger ski areas in canton Bern and Valais will remain open. Canton Graubünden is expected to decide on Monday.

Looking ahead

The Swiss government said in a statement that the aim of its latest measures was "to reduce case numbers rapidly and substantially, to protect people from the virus, safeguard the health service and relieve the pressure on healthcare workers".

It has also expanded the use of rapid tests.

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga added in a press conference in Bern announcing the measures that the government would assess the coronavirus situation again before the end of the year. And she warned: there could be stronger measures at the beginning of 2021 if the situation does not improve.

Canton Aargau  - the cantons are in charge of health matters - has already announced stricter measures than the national ones, to start on midnight Sunday.

Kai Reusser / swissinfo.ch

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