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Switzerland Considers New COVID-19 Restrictions as Cases Surge

A poster reading: "Discrimination against people? No to COVID restriction tightening" is seen before Swiss voters decide about the federal government's pandemic response plan in a binding referendum, near Oberwil-Lieli in Switzerland, Nov.16, 2021.

Officials in Switzerland Friday presented two sets of restrictions they are considering to address surging COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations that are threatening the nation’s health system.

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health recorded 10,163 new cases and 51 deaths in the previous 24 hours – the largest spike in deaths since January. The office reported the nation’s intensive care units are 82% full.

At a news conference in Bern, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said the country is sliding back to a place it does not want to be in and presented the two alternative proposals the government is considering.

Under the first, access to indoor public venues – restaurants, bars, concert halls, theaters – would be limited to those who are either fully vaccinated or recovered. It would eliminate the “negative test” option that currently exists. Masks indoors would also be required unless a patron was sitting and eating.

The second alternative would go further and temporarily close those places where wearing a mask is not possible all the time, including bars, restaurants, gyms and nightclubs. Indoor sports and cultural activities like theatres would still be allowed to open, but with a mask requirement.

Berset told reporters the second alternative was not pleasant, but the intention was to avoid broader closures and lockdowns.

The officials said the federal government will consider the proposals in coordination with local leaders and others to decide which path to take in coming days.

Berset said, “We already succeeded in getting on top of this situation a year ago, and we will get on top of it again, together, in the coming weeks.”

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.