Swiss again deploy army to help cope with pandemic

·1 min read
FILE PHOTO: A sign of Hospital Battalion 2 of the Swiss army is pictured during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Neuchatel

ZURICH (Reuters) - Switzerland will deploy up to 2,500 military personnel to help regional authorities cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the government said on Tuesday, again tapping the armed forces to support the health care system as COVID-19 cases soar.

Switzerland and tiny neighbour Liechtenstein have reported more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 11,300 deaths from the disease since the pandemic broke out last year.

Cases have been rising again, straining some hospitals as the government tries to keep the economy open amid what it calls a "critical" situation.

Last week, it tightened rules on wearing masks and producing a certificate to prove a person is vaccinated or has recovered from the virus.

Switzerland, which used the military twice last year to help out, will let cantons request help to care for or transport patients and to support vaccinations if their civil defence, fire department and private-sector resources are inadequate.

The government said it would will ask parliament to approve the measure, that will run until March 31.

Nearly 79% of hospital intensive care units are now occupied, of which COVID patients account for just over 30%.

Only 66% of the Swiss population - or three out of four people aged 12 or older - is fully vaccinated despite repeated public campaigns to encourage holdouts to get jabbed.

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Bernadette Baum)