POLICE PRESENCE REINFORCED IN LAISSEZ-FAIRE SWITZERLAND

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Swiss police plan to step up their presence significantly in the coming days to enforce social restrictions put in place to curb the coronavirus.  

With the Easter holidays approaching and warmer weather in the forecast, Stefan Blättler, head of the Conference of Cantonal Police Commanders, urged people to avoid unnecessary travel.

Police are especially worried about people heading south to the hard-hit canton of Ticino, which borders Italy and attracts many visitors this time of year. Traffic jams are a common sight along the main route, particularly outside the Gotthard Tunnel.

COVID-19 cases in Switzerland continue to rise by more than 1,000 a day. While that’s less steep than before, it is not clear yet that the rate has reached a peak, said Daniel Koch, head of communicable diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health.

It’s still too early to make a reliable prognosis for the coming weeks and “certainly too early to relax the restrictions at this time,” he said.

He declined to rule out further limits on public life, saying officials will wait until after the weekend to address that question. At present, gatherings of more than five people are banned, and shops, restaurants, and cultural spaces are closed. Koch urged people to stay home except for brief walks.

Globally COVID-19 infections are nearing the 1 million mark after cases more than doubled in the past week. In Switzerland, the number rose to 18,267 on Thursday, with 432 deaths.

Mask debate 

The World Health Organization is revisiting its guidance on whether people should wear face masks in public amid growing evidence that those with no symptoms of the virus can spread the disease more widely than thought.

“We’re continuing to study the evidence about the use of masks,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference Wednesday.

The Geneva-based UN agency has discouraged healthy people other than those caring for the infected from wearing masks. European countries have largely followed the WHO, but a shift appears to be under way. On Monday, Austria ordered its citizens to wear masks when outside the home, after the Czech, Slovak, and Bosnian governments issued similar orders.

Switzerland has not mandated masks so far. The Federal Office of Public Health recommends their use only for health workers caring for coronavirus patients, people suspected of having the infection, or those who are at risk.

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