Swiss tighten virus restrictions, stop short of full lockdown
By Arnd Wiegmann BERN (Reuters) - Switzerland on Wednesday tightened measures to tackle new variants of the COVID-19 virus spreading across the country while stopping short of the full lockdown neighbouring countries have adopted to choke off the pandemic.
By Arnd Wiegmann
BERN (Reuters) - Switzerland on Wednesday tightened measures to tackle new variants of the COVID-19 virus spreading across the country while stopping short of the full lockdown neighbouring countries have adopted to choke off the pandemic.
The wealthy Alpine country also eased rules for pandemic-hit businesses to apply for state aid, which will force the government to ask parliament to top up the latest 2.5 billion Swiss franc ($2.82 billion) pot of money for hardship cases.
Governments across Europe have announced tighter and longer coronavirus lockdowns over fears about a fast-spreading variant first detected in Britain, with vaccinations not expected to help much for another two to three months.
Switzerland, which has so far taken a lighter touch to restricting business and public life, said it will close shops selling non-essential supplies from Monday.
It ordered companies to instruct employees to work from home where possible, or require staff in workplaces with more than one person to wear masks.
It halved the limit on private gatherings to five people. Schools remain open.
Worried by mounting cases of virus mutations that spread more easily, the cabinet extended the closure of restaurants, and cultural and sport sites by five weeks to the end of February, as proposed last week.
New COVID-19 variants were 50% to 70% more infectious than earlier forms, it noted, raising prospects that case numbers could double weekly.
"The government is aware that the measures decided today will have a significant economic impact. We did not take this decision lightly," President Guy Parmelin told reporters.
Switzerland has cancelled World Cup downhill ski races like the Lauberhorn classic while allowing ski resorts to remain open, reflecting its wariness of levying harsh economic restrictions.
Health authorities reported more than 490,000 cases and 7,851 deaths since the pandemic broke out in February 2020.
Finance Minister Ueli Maurer said Switzerland would keep borrowing to cushion the pandemic's impact while avoiding new taxes.
($1 = 0.8869 Swiss francs)
(Reporting by John Revill, John Miller, Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi and Michael Shields)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Lisa Barrington DUBAI (Reuters) - Arab states boycotting Qatar could resume travel and trade links with Doha within a week under a U.S.-backed deal, but restoring diplomatic ties requires more time as parties work to rebuild trust, a United Arab Emirates official said on Thursday. Gulf powerhouse Saudi Arabia announced the breakthrough in ending a bitter dispute at a summit on Tuesday, with its foreign minister saying Riyadh and its allies would restore all ties with Doha severed in mid-2017. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told a virtual news conference that measures to be implemented within a week of the agreement "include practical measures of airlines, shipping and trade".
By Tracy Rucinski (Reuters) - U.S airlines and law enforcement agencies have bolstered security at Washington-area airports on Thursday after supporters of President Donald Trump caused mayhem in the U.S. capital in an attempt to overturn his election loss.
By Jonathan Landay, Patricia Zengerle and David Morgan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund to resign on Thursday, after officers of the federal force charged with protecting Congress allowed supporters of President Donald Trump to storm the Capitol, sending lawmakers fleeing