Wearing a mask will be mandatory from Monday in closed public places throughout Switzerland, the federal government announced on Sunday, among other measures to try to stem the “exponential” growth of COVID-19 cases.
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“This last week, the infections have doubled”, the growth of cases is now “exponential”, declared the president of the confederation, Simonetta Sommaruga, during a press conference, justifying the seriousness of the situation so that the Confederation imposes national measures when the management of the pandemic was since the summer the sole responsibility of the cantons.
They can continue to take measures appropriate to the local situation.
Switzerland had been relatively spared from the pandemic in the spring and had imposed limited restrictions. But during the summer, authorities and citizens had clearly let their guard down.
“Currently, it only takes a week to see the doubling of cases because we have too high a number of people who are infected for each new case”, explained the Federal Minister of Health, Alain Berset, during the same point of press. He stressed that the test positivity rate is currently very high, around “15, 16%”.
Faced with the “worrying” evolution of contaminations, “we know how to act and now is the time when we must all use what we learned in the spring,” he added.
Several hundred demonstrators opposing these new restrictions demonstrated in Bern in front of the Federal Palace on Sunday, an AFP photographer noted.
From Monday, spontaneous gatherings of more than 15 people in public spaces will be prohibited. Wearing a mask will be compulsory in enclosed spaces accessible to the public and this obligation will also apply in stations and airports as well as at bus and tram stops.
Private events – which are a major source of contamination – of more than 15 people will also be regulated. In addition, in restaurants, bars or nightclubs, it will only be allowed to consume while seated.
The government also recommends using telework.
Switzerland is the country in Europe where the disease progressed the fastest last week (+ 146%) according to an AFP count. Again on Friday, the Federal Office of Health announced 3,087 new cases for this country of 8.6 million inhabitants.
The numbers have been rising steadily since the end of summer and the infection rate for the past two weeks was 230 people per 100,000 population.
For reference, Switzerland places the alert rating to put a country on the red list and force visitors who come to confine themselves for 10 days, at 60 per 100,000.
In total, COVID-19 has killed 1,822 people in Switzerland as of Friday, a rate of 21.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.