Switzerland will make face masks compulsory in indoor public spaces and ban gatherings of more than 15 people from Monday amid growing concern over a spike in coronavirus cases.
The Alpine country of 8.5 million people was largely spared during the early stages of the pandemic, but Covid-19 has spread faster in Switzerland than in any other European country over the past week.
President Simonetta Sommaruga said the spread of the virus was “exponential” as she announced Switzerland’s first national restrictions and urged people to work from home. Previously measures to contain the crisis had been been left to local leaders in the country’s 26 cantons, or states.
Restaurants and bars may remain open provided they serve seated customers only.
A government statement said: “The sharp increase in the number of contaminations in recent days is worrying… It concerns all age groups and all cantons.”
It is not obligatory to wear masks in schools and scheduled official events such as political rallies and sports events are exempt from the ban on gatherings, provided protection measures are enforced.
However, some cantons are imposing additional local restrictions on sports events. In Bern, a maximum of 1,000 spectators are now allowed.
In a sign of opposition to the new rules, several hundred protesters demonstrated on Sunday outside the Federal Palace, which houses the parliament and government.
Alain Berset, the health minister, urged people to be responsible and show common sense. “The second wave is here, earlier and stronger than we thought, but we’re ready for it. We know how to act and it is now time for all of us to make use of what we learned in the spring.”
Switzerland reported 3,105 new infections on Friday, compared with 1,487 a week earlier. It has had 1,822 deaths.