GENEVA, Switzerland - Swiss authorities announced Wednesday new measures to rein in skyrocketing coronavirus cases in the country, and acknowledged that it no longer made sense for most travelers to the country to quarantine.
Cases of COVID-19 are now doubling in Switzerland from week to week, the government said, insisting a slew of stricter measures were needed if the wealthy Alpine nation wanted to avoid returning to the economically crippling partial confinement of the spring.
"No one wants a second semi-confinement," President Simonetta Sommaruga told a news conference, insisting that everyone needed to pitch in to help avoid shutting down businesses and putting jobs at risk.
But while introducing stricter rules for mask-wearing and crowd sizes, the government also said it would lift the requirement for people arriving from a long line of countries to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Switzerland or risk a $10,000-fine.
Switzerland has until now put countries and regions on its "red list" for quarantining once COVID-19 infection rates there passed more than 60 per 100,000 people for a period of 14 days.
But in recent weeks, the country itself has seen its own infection rate gallop past that mark and has over 760 cases for 100,000 people for the past two weeks.
That makes the country one of the hardest-hit in Europe, making it pointless to impose quarantines on people arriving from less-impacted regions.
From now on, the government said, the quarantine requirement will only apply to regions where the infection rate per 100,000 people is 60 cases or more higher than in Switzerland.
The only European countries remaining on the list are now Andorra, Armenia, Belgium, the Czech Republic and three regions of France, including Paris.
Wednesday's figures showed there were nearly 8,600 new cases in Switzerland -- a country of 8.5 million people -- over the past 24 hours, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 135,197 cases.
The country meanwhile registered 24 fresh deaths, bringing the total number to 1,953.
Face masks will now be required in all enclosed public spaces and outdoors if keeping a proper distance is not possible.
All night clubs will be closed, and bars and restaurants may not remain open past 11 pm, with no more than four people allowed at each table.
And gatherings of more than 50 people have been banned.