Restaurants and bars, as well as sports, cultural and leisure facilities, will have to close their doors on December 22nd and remain shut until January 22nd, the Federal Council announced on Friday.
Delivery and take-out services will remain possible. Company and school canteens, as well as hotel restaurants, will also be able to continue their activities.
However, store capacities will be limited and the number of customers allowed inside at the same time will depend on the size of the business.
“The epidemiological situation is a cause of great concern,” the government said in a statement.
“The number of infections is very high and is continuing to rise. Hospitals and healthcare workers have been under extreme pressure for weeks and the festive period increases the risk of an even more rapid rise in cases,” it explained.
Switzerland, a country of about 8.6 million people, is continuing to see more than 4,000 new cases and 100 deaths each day, despite a wide range of measures taken recently in parts of the country.
In total, the country has recorded more than 400,000 cases and nearly 6,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Health Minister Alain Berset said however that the least-affected cantons – those where the R-rate remains below 1 for more than a week – may decide to ease the restrictions and keep their restaurants and other venues open.
So far only Valais and Geneva have R-rates lower than 1.
“The evolution of the pandemic does not correspond to our expectations”, Berset said.
“It is a critical situation”.
“New infections are increasing in most cantons. The situation in hospitals is not sustainable in the long term,” he added.
If the epidemiological situation continues to deteriorate, the Federal Council said it would take further measures quickly. It will carry out an interim evaluation on December 30th.
There are a number of exceptions to the new restrictions, which are due to last for at least a month.
Hotel restaurants and school and workplace cafeterias will not have to close.
And while sporting venues will be asked to close, professional teams will be permitted to play games without spectators.
The government also said that cantons that shows positive epidemiological development could individually decide to loosen some of the national restrictions.
That decision followed outrage expressed over fresh restrictions from French-speaking cantons, which had already recently shut restaurants and closed cultural sights for weeks while the German-speaking part of the country
left everything open.
But while restaurants, sports and culture venues will close, skiing will still be allowed under the strict conditions which are currently in place.
They include wearing face masks not only in enclosed spaces such as mountain trains and cable cars, but also on open-air chair lifts and T-bars, as well as in queues.
Health Minister Alain Berset nonetheless urged his countrymen to “think” before setting off on a snow holiday, warning that the hospitals are already full.
Berset also announced that from December 21st, rapid Covid-19 tests will become available to people without symptoms, in order to detect as many infections as possible.