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.
“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 adapt to the local situation, some having imposed in recent days more drastic measures than the announcements of the Confederation.
Switzerland had been relatively spared from the pandemic in the spring and had imposed limited restrictions compared to its neighbors. But during the summer, authorities and citizens had clearly let their guard down.
“The second wave is here, earlier and stronger than we thought, but we are prepared for it,” Federal Minister of Health Alain Berset said during the same press briefing. He pointed out that the test positivity rate is currently very high, around “15, 16%”.
Yet “we know how to act and now is the time when we all need to use what we learned in the spring,” he added, calling for everyone to be responsible.
Several hundred demonstrators opposing these new restrictions demonstrated in Bern in front of the Federal Palace on Sunday, an AFP photographer noted.
The atmosphere was tense in the square and the police made several arrests under the whistles.
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 has progressed the fastest last week (+ 146%) according to an AFP count. As of Friday, the Federal Office of Health announced 3,087 new cases for this country of 8.6 million inhabitants.
The numbers have been steadily increasing 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, the Covid-19 has killed 1,822 people in Switzerland as of Friday, a rate of 21.3 per 100,000 inhabitants.