ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland should tighten restrictions to curb the coronavirus again following a recent spike in cases, in order to prevent the need for much harsher lockdown measures in future, the new head of the country's coronavirus taskforce said.
Switzerland has seen the number of new cases of COVID-19 surge to more than 200 a day recently after an average of 35 per day in June.
Martin Ackermann, who heads the body that provides scientific advice to the Swiss government, said the country was on the brink of a big increase in infections and had little room to manoeuvre.
"We should intervene early to prevent exponential growth," Ackermann told newspaper SonntagsZeitung. "Otherwise there's a risk of drastic and expensive restrictions. This must be prevented under all circumstances."
Switzerland has lifted a partial lockdown that was imposed in March, when shops, bars and restaurants were ordered to close to prevent the spread of the virus which has infected 35,000 people and killed 1,707 in the country of 8.6 billion people.
Ackermann, who took over as head of the taskforce on Saturday, said he supported making it mandatory to wear face masks indoors. Face masks are currently only compulsory on public transport and at political demonstrations.
The government has relaxed restrictions on gatherings, although it still bans events of more than 1,000 people.
The size of public gatherings should be limited again, said Ackermann, who is an expert in microbiology.
"I also believe that the size of public events should now be reduced to 100 participants, as there is a risk of an exponential increase in the number of cases," Ackermann told the newspaper.
He said it was difficult to say whether large scale events were fuelling the epidemic.
"Initial data ...shows that where large numbers of people gather, there are also many infections," he said.
"Exact data on who is infected and where (they) are infected is absolutely vital. Without this data we are flying blind."
(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Susan Fenton)