UPDATE 1-Swiss tighten COVID-19 curbs to tackle 'critical' situation

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(Adds details, background)

By John Revill

ZURICH, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Switzerland announced stronger anti-Covid-19 measures on Friday, as its government battles to contain a surge in coronavirus infections and the arrival of the Omicron variant in the country.

The country will expand the requirement to wear masks and produce a certificate to prove a person is vaccinated or has recovered from the virus, the government said.

Masks will have to be worn indoors wherever a certificate obligation applies, it said. Meanwhile events and venues will be allowed to restrict entry only to people who are vaccinated or recovered.

It also reinforced its message for people to work from home, although it did not make home working compulsory after local authorities and business groups objected.

The measures will go into effect on Monday, Dec. 6 and be effective until Jan. 24.

"The Federal Council currently assesses the situation as very critical," the government said in a statement. "The emergence of the Omicron variant also poses new challenges for pandemic response."

Three cases of the new variant have already been confirmed in Switzerland, according to the Federal Office for Public Health, with persons placed in isolation and their contacts quarantined.

The country of 8.7 million is also battling an increase in infections, with more than 96,000 cases confirmed in the last 14 days and a daily record of 11,340 infections reported on Nov. 29.

Previously Switzerland had banned travel from southern Africa and ordered arrivals from 23 countries including Japan, Britain and Canada to quarantine for 10 days.

"With the intensified measures, the Federal Council wants to reduce the infections with the Delta variant so that the hospital structures are relieved as much as possible," the government said.

Switzerland's approach contrasts with neighbouring Austria, which ordered a total lockdown last week.

Bern also tightened the obligation for people to produce a certificate for all indoor public events as well as for all sports and cultural activities, revoking an exemption for groups of less than 30 people.

Smaller family meetings also posed a risk, it said.

"For meetings with family and friends indoors, the urgent recommendation in future will be to use the certificate for gatherings of 11 people and up." (Reporting by John Revill Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

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