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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 million 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."

(This story has been refiled to fix typo)

(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Susan Fenton)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Mexico City lets bars change to restaurants to reopen

MEXICO CITY (AP) — The government of Mexico City will allow bars to operate as restaurants starting Monday in order to reopen as part of an easing of the coronavirus lockdown.

While bars and nightclubs have been closed for four months, the city is now offering automatic approval if bar owners fill out an online application and agree to offer food and enforce sanitary and social distancing measures. In exchange, they can open at 30% capacity until 10 p.m.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that was to avoid more job losses among bar employees.

Similar measures elsewhere have given rise to symbolic food orders — a handful of chips — for customers who really just want a beer or wine. But Sheinbaum was emphatic, saying: “I repeat, the bars are not opening.”

New guidelines that went into effect Monday also allow movie theaters, swimming pools and museums in Mexico City to open at 30% of capacity.

The mayor delivered her daily press briefing from home on Monday after she announced she was isolating after one of her top officials tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The city government has been performing slightly more tests than the strikingly low level of testing done nationwide. Nationwide, less than one in 100 people have been tested; the city has administered about 1.5 tests per 100 residents.

The city government reports about 80,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and about 9,400 COVID-19 deaths so far.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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