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World News

Swiss health minister says new national COVID-19 restrictions unlikely

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland’s health minister said on Wednesday that new country-wide measures to check the recent spike in coronavirus cases are “unlikely” at present.

The number of cases has quadrupled in recent days compared to June’s figures, sparking concerns that restrictions may have to be tightened again to tackle a second wave of COVID-19.

A senior adviser to the government has recommended that mask wearing be compulsory indoors and that the size of events, currently restricted to 1,000 people, be limited to 100.

“In such an uncertain situation, nothing is impossible,” Alain Berset told newspaper Tages-Anzeiger. “But it seems unlikely to me,” he said when asked if he was considering national restrictions.

“Drastic” national steps, which included closing shops and schools, were launched in March after Switzerland saw how the pandemic had hit other countries, the minister said in the interview.

While this made sense for some parts of the country like Zurich and Geneva, in hindsight other regions might not have needed such steps, Berset said.

“Fortunately, we have learned so much in the meantime that we can take a more differentiated approach to a possible second wave.”

People needed to maintain social distancing rules to check a rise the recent rise in cases, he added.

So far 35,746 cases have been reported in Switzerland, with 4,306 deaths out of a population of 8.6 million.

“I watch with concern that the discipline is waning. There are people who are shaking hands again,” Berset said. “That is a big mistake.”

“We still don’t know enough how the season affects the virus. But almost certainly the situation in the autumn will not improve but will be difficult.”

Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Kim Coghill

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