Switzerland on Friday ordered restaurants, bars and shops to close from 7 p.m. across most of the nation, as the country faces a persistently high level of coronvirus infections and deaths.
Brushing off concerns about more downbeat Christmas celebrations and cancelled ski trips, the government said the country had to work quickly to reduce the mounting burden on its hospitals and health workers.
"The situation we're seeing now we have never experienced before," Health Minister Alain Berset told a news conference, referring to the rise in cases.
Switzerland has been trying to steer a middle course between shutting down the economy and preventing the spread of the virus that causes Covid-19.
But the strategy has had mixed results. The number of infections has risen again in December after beginning to fall from an early November peak, and has reached much higher levels than during the first outbreak.
Authorities on Friday reported 5,136 new cases and 106 more deaths in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein. Roughly 1.3% of the population has been infected in the last 28 days.
"In order to bring the virus under control, we need new measures, and this must happen quickly," President Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters.
The government said regions less badly hit by the pandemic could choose to keep shops and restaurants open until 11 p.m. The exception would apply to regions that had a virus reproduction rate below 1 and an infection incidence below the national average over at least a week.
The government also restricted cultural activities to groups of five people, and banned public events apart from church services, funerals, political demonstrations and legislative meetings.
But it backtracked on plans to further limit private gatherings, capped at ten people, although it strongly recommended no more than two households assemble at once.
The new restrictions, which come into effect on Saturday, will run until Jan. 22.