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Rise in new corona cases sparks concern in Switzerland

Swiss officials have expressed concern over the slow increase in coronavirus infections in Switzerland over the past few weeks. On Friday there were 134 confirmed cases, the third day in a row cases were over 100.

It was “not possible to predict how fast the number of cases would rise again”, declared Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH) on Friday.

On Wednesday cases rose to 137, more than double the number on Tuesday. On Thursday, 116 cases were recorded.

Switzerland, which has lifted many of its lockdown restrictions, has registered a total of over 32,000 positive tests for Covid-19 so far, while 1,965 people have died. But the number of infections has started to again increase since mid-June, triggering concerns about a second wave.

The number of people hospitalised for Covid 19 has also risen slightly, FOPH said. Currently, 12 people are on ventilators in intensive care in Swiss hospitals.

The international situation also does not look very optimistic added Mathys, who is the head of crisis management and international cooperation at the FOPH. “There are several hotspots around the world where cases are exploding,” he told reporters at a weekly press conference in the capital Bern. He mentioned the United States, Brazil and Russia in particular. The situation in Switzerland’s neighbouring countries was also causing concern.

Mathys said two new national measures had been announced in Switzerland from next Monday July 6 to counter the rise in Switzerland: the obligatory wearing of masks in public transport and a ten-day quarantine for people arriving in Switzerland from 29 “at risk” countries, which includes the United States and Brazil.

Spotlight on cantons

As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, the federal authorities have handed the responsibility for any additional local measures over to the cantons. “It’s not our aim to reintroduce national blanket measures,” Mathys said, referring to the unprecedented step taken for the lockdown, where powers temporarily moved from the cantons to the federal government (under Switzerland’s federal constitution, it’s normally the cantons in charge of daily business).

Cantons must “work with the scalpel and tweezers in the areas where we know that there are problems in terms of transmission”, he added.

Some cantons have already announced their own targeted measures. Canton Ticino, which has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic due to its proximity to hard-hit Italy, said on Friday that gatherings of more than 30 people were now forbidden. It set a limit for bars and clubs to 100 people.

Currently the limit for nightclubs and pubs is 300 for the whole of Switzerland. But questions have been raised after a “super-spreader” infected several people at a club in Zurich, forcing hundreds into quarantine. There have been several other cases of infections at other clubs as well as at schools in Jura and Vaud.

On Friday, cantons Vaud and Jura in French-speaking Switzerland also announced that from next week residents would have to wear masks when they go into local shops and businesses.