ZURICH (Reuters) – The leading expert advising the Swiss government on the coronavirus pandemic urged it on Tuesday to impose an immediate and strict lockdown to contain the infection rate, echoing calls by other scientists, officials and medical professionals.
“We think we need very strong measures, the earlier the better,” Martin Ackermann, who heads the independent scientific advisory body on COVID-19, told a media briefing.
Ackermann called for the closure of restaurants and non-essential shops and for strict work-from-home rules.
“We are afraid we’ll see more close contacts over the year-end holidays,” he said. “(We have) a bad situation and a high risk it’ll get worse.”
Unlike neighbouring countries, Switzerland has so far refrained from imposing another lockdown, mostly sticking to recommendations and ordering restaurants, bars and shops to close from 7 p.m. across most of the country. Ski resorts remain open.
But with a reproduction number currently at 1.13 signalling exponential growth of infections, the government is under increasing pressure to announce a further tightening of measures at its next official media briefing on Friday.
Switzerland recorded 4,271 infections within the last 24 hours, and 103 deaths. This month, more than 55,000 infections were confirmed and 962 people died of COVID-19 in the country with a population of 8.5 million.
Patrick Mathys, responsible for crisis management at the Swiss health authorities and international cooperation, told the media briefing that Switzerland had handled the second wave of the virus less well than its neighbours.
He said the virus was stagnating or on the rise in many other countries, but others had taken more far-reaching measures. “If we don’t choose a similar path, we’ll continue to stand out in a negative way,” he said.
(Reporting by Silke Koltrowitz; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)