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Swiss plan to ban public events to contain worsening COVID-19 situation

A display shows the departure time of a train of Swiss train operator SBB from Zurich to Milan, Italy, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at the central station in Zurich, Switzerland December 8, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann reuters_tickers
This content was published on December 8, 2020 - 19:05

ZURICH (Reuters) -Switzerland plans to ban all public events apart from church services and legislative meetings and further limit private gatherings after Dec. 12, as it said on Tuesday that the COVID-19 situation was deteriorating.

It is starting talks with the nation's 26 cantons over the proposals, as it prepares for the new restrictions.

The announcement came as the Federal Office of Public Health reported 92 more deaths, taking the death toll in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein to 5,116. The number of cases rose by 4,262 cases to 358,568, it said.

The government also plans to order restaurants, shops and markets to close at 7 pm through Jan. 20 in an effort to restrict the spread of the virus. It also aims to restrict the number of people who could meet in households to five.

"The number of new infections is high and is rising again, beds in intensive care units are stretched," the government said. "The increasingly cold temperatures and bad weather may have accelerated the infection rate."

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

"The numbers are increasing exponentially - too quickly and too strongly. We want reduce contact and the number of infections," Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga said

"If we don't act quickly enough, the worst of the pandemic is still to come," she added. "Then, even more drastic measures will be needed."

The proposals under consideration by the Swiss government do not extend to outdoor sports, including skiing, Health Minister Alain Berset said.

Switzerland has already announced a raft of measures designed to restrict the virus's spread in ski areas, including capacity limits on transport, but plans to keep the slopes open unlike neighbours France, Italy and Germany.

Also on Tuesday, Switzerland and Italy announced cross-border train service would be halted from Thursday.

(Reporting by John Revill, editing by John Miller)

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