ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland announced stricter measures on Wednesday to deal with new variants of the COVID-19 virus that is spreading across the country, but failed to implement the total lockdown imposed by neighboring countries to tackle the pandemic. The country also relaxed the rules to allow companies affected by the pandemic to request state financial aid in difficult cases. Governments across Europe have announced tighter and prolonged coronavirus lockdowns over fears about a fast-spreading variant first detected in Britain, and the vaccines are not expected to help much for another two to three months. Switzerland, which has so far taken a lighter touch to restrict business and public life, said it will close stores selling non-essential supplies starting Monday. He also ordered companies to require employees to work from home whenever possible or where it does not create a disproportionate burden. In workplaces where this is not possible, office staff with more than one worker would have to wear masks at all times. The government extended the closure of restaurants, cultural and sports sites for five weeks until now until the end of February, confirming the measures it proposed last week. Private meetings will now be limited to five people, the government added. The previous limit was 10 people. “Infection rates are stagnating at a very high level and with the newer, much more infectious variants of the virus, there is the threat of a rapid resurgence,” the government said in a statement. The government said it was concerned about newer COVID-19 variants, including from Great Britain, which were 50% to 70% more infectious than previous strains according to initial estimates. Switzerland canceled the World Cup alpine ski races as the Lauberhorn classic planned for Saturday, while continuing to allow ski resorts to remain open, including in Wengen, the host town of Lauberhorn, an approach that indicates the caution of the nation to impose severe economic restrictions even as infections increase. . The federal department of public health reported 3,001 new cases and 58 deaths in Switzerland and the neighboring principality of Liechtenstein on Wednesday. Some 490,000 cases have been reported and 7,851 people have died since the pandemic broke out in February 2020. The country, which has already paid billions in loans and aid to keep its economy afloat, has also relaxed the rules that allow companies receive due state support. to pandemic-related disruptions, such as reducing the burden of proof that they must present before receiving money.
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