Swiss to quarantine travellers from high-risk COVID countries

ZURICH (Reuters) – Individuals returning to Switzerland from regions deemed to be at high risk from the coronavirus will be quarantined, the government said on Wednesday, as the country tries to halt a recent upswing in the number of new cases of the disease.

The Federal Office of Public Health will maintain and update a list of countries from which travellers returning to Switzerland must self-isolate for ten days beginning Monday, Health Minister Alain Berset told a news conference.

Berset cited Sweden as an example of a country which might currently fall on the list.

Cases of the coronavirus in Switzerland have risen rapidly since mid-June, hitting a two-month high of 137 new reported cases on Wednesday, up from an average 10-20 daily cases in late May according to public health office figures.

The government attributed the virus’s recent rise partly to infected individuals entering the country since borders to neighbouring countries opened last month.

It also said it expected to follow the European Commission’s recommendation to lift restrictions on travel from 15 countries outside Europe’s generally border-free Schengen zone, but would not lift the measures until July 20—compared to the Commission’s July 1 proposal—and would exclude Serbia from that list.

Mask-wearing requirement will also become compulsory for individuals traveling on public transport from Monday, with Health Minister Berset saying had Switzerland lagged its neighbours by not imposing such a requirement earlier.

The government said it would also extend its short time working scheme to 18 months form the current 12 month limit. The scheme, where the government picks up part of the wages of furloughed workers, has helped Switzerland avoid a surge in unemployment during the crisis.

The government will decide at year’s end how to pay back billions of debt accumulated to provide relief for struggling business, it announced on Wednesday, saying it assumed it would not have to raise taxes to repay the debt in the medium term.

The government said it expects budget deficit of around 1 billion Swiss francs ($1.05 billion) for 2021.

Reporting and photo: Reuters

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