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Swiss government plans nationwide Covid-19 restrictions

berset and sommaruga
Interior Minister Berset, left, and Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga on Tuesday. Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

The government has announced plans to ban most public events and impose early closing times on restaurants and shops nationwide from this weekend.

The executive body said on Tuesday that consultations on a three-pillar plan would begin on Wednesday with the 26 cantons, and that the first measures will enter into force from Saturday December 12. They will remain in place until January 20 next year.

The measuresExternal link propose limiting private gatherings to five people from a maximum of two households, a number that would be doubled to 10 for the festive period between December 24 and December 26 and on December 31.

Restaurants, sports and leisure facilities, and shops would close at 7pm each evening, and also remain shut on Sundays. Ski resorts, which were the focus of much debate last week, are exempt from this as an “outdoor activity”.

The plan also foresees church services, as well as legislative and parliamentary gatherings, being allowed to continue, as exceptions to the ban on public gatherings.

After getting feedback from the cantons, the Swiss government plans to meet again on Friday, ahead of a final decision on the new measures due to kick in at the weekend.

Delicate situation

The announcement came after new infections rose by 4,262 on Tuesday to a total of 354,568 since the beginning of the pandemic: figures which Interior Minister Alain Berset described as “dangerous” and which President Simonetta Sommaruga said were rising “too quickly and too strongly”.

The second wave of Covid-19 in Switzerland has been characterised by cantonal autonomy and a patchwork of different rules across the country, a situation which has not managed to rein in case numbers among the highest in Europe.

And though the government is not considering taking full “extraordinary” charge – as it did in spring – the measures announced on Tuesday represent an effort to bring a semblance of nationwide coherence back to the situation, Berset said.

The death toll rose on Tuesday to a total of 5,527.


More restrictions if necessary

The government also said the plan had two further pillars. The second foresees that, should the situation not improve in the coming weeks, additional stronger measures could be taken – a shutdown, including blanket closures of shops and restaurants, is therefore not off the table.

This second series of measures, which the government will discuss on December 18, could nevertheless be more “targeted” than the current crop of nationwide rules, Berset said. This could allow cantons that make significant progress to avoid further restrictions.

The third pillar of the plan outlined on Tuesday is a new package of financial measures to help businesses affected by the measures. The finance, economic, interior and justice ministries will present a proposal to the government to this effect on December 18.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR