Swiss mull limited lockdown as COVID-19 cases rise – Reuters

People wear masks at the Christmas Market, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Montreux, Switzerland December 6, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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ZURICH, Dec 10 (Reuters) – Switzerland may have to impose another limited lockdown to break the momentum of rising coronavirus cases that threaten to overwhelm its healthcare system, the government said on Friday.

“This is really a critical phase. The trends are going in the wrong direction,” Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters in Bern as the cabinet launched consultations with regional authorities and social partners on the way forward.

The government said it may expand the requirement for proof of vaccination or recovery from the virus for access to many indoor venues, which would leave out unvaccinated people even if they have negative test results.

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Under one proposal, even vaccinated people would need to show a negative test to enter places like bars and for choir practice and events where masks cannot be worn.

Under an alternate proposal, the state would close indoor parts of restaurants, bars and fitness centres but leave open shops, hairdressers, banks and post offices.

Officials said these were contingency plans to be discussed in consultations that run until Dec. 14.

Switzerland has been trying to curb public activity without resorting to another lockdown.

Switzerland and tiny neighbour Liechtenstein have reported more than 1.1 million COVID-19 infections – more than a tenth of the population – and more than 11,000 deaths since the pandemic began last year. read more

The government proposed limiting private indoor gatherings to five people if any were unvaccinated, including children, while up to 30 could gather indoors if all were vaccinated.

It could also require working from home, compared to the current recommendation to do so.

Should the situation worsen further, the government said it would consider limiting all private gatherings to five people.

Two out of three residents are fully vaccinated, including three-quarters of the population aged 12 and above, but resistance to the jabs remains common. Officials have not ruled out making vaccination compulsory in an emergency.

More than 80% of intensive care beds are occupied.

While ski lifts continue to operate, operators on Friday introduced capacity limits for large cabins.

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Reporting by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Michael Shields and Janet Lawrence

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