By John Revill
ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland announced tighter restrictions on Sunday to tackle the second wave of the coronavirus hitting the country, including a nation-wide obligation to wear masks and a ban on large scale public gatherings.
Gatherings of more than 15 people in public places will be banned from Monday and masks must be worn in all indoor public places, the government announced following an extraordinary meeting.
An order to wear masks on public transport has been extended to cover train stations, airports, bus and tram stops, the government said, replacing a patchwork of regulations which applied across Switzerland’s different regions.
The obligation to wear a mask will also apply to shops, banks, churches, and cinemas, the government said. It recommended people work from home if they can.
“The COVID-19 infection rate has increased at a very quick rate,” Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters at a press conference in Bern. “Unlike before it is affecting all cantons and all age groups.
“With winter coming it is very important to slow the spread of the virus now. Every day counts.”
Switzerland, a country of 8.6 million people, on Friday reported the highest daily number of infections since the COVID-19 crisis began, with 3,105 new cases.
So far 74,422 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and 1,823 people have died.
Sommaruga said the government was prepared to impose more drastic restrictions if the new ones did not work.
No time limit has been set for how long the measures – designed to safeguard both the population and the economy – will remain in place, she added.
Health Minister Alain Berset confirmed the second wave of the coronavirus had now materialised.
“I can say that over the last 10 days, the second wave is here… It has come rather earlier and stronger than we thought, but we are prepared for the situation.”
(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)