March 16, 2020 / 10:03 AM / 21 days ago

Switzerland cancels parliament session, virus cases rise

ZURICH, March 16 (Reuters) - Switzerland canceled a session of its national parliament, the government held crisis talks and the Swiss stock market plunged on Monday as new coronavirus cases accelerated.

A reported rise of some 840 new infections on Sunday brought total cases in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein to 2,200, a jump of more than 50% in a single day and signaling that the disease's spread is intensifying. Of the total cases, 1,563 are confirmed.

Switzerland has labeled the outbreak a "special situation", shifting more power to the federal government to enact measures to protect its 8.6 million residents. Bern, which last week made more than $10 billion available for economic aid amid the crisis, still has room to intensify the order.

The government has shut down schools nationwide for weeks, introduced border checks and severely curbed gatherings and events as part of efforts to protect, in particular, older residents who are at high risk.

The country, whose central bank on Sunday joined global counterparts in boosting dollar liquidity for nervous markets, so far has reported 13 deaths. Six have been reported in Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton that borders Italy where the infection has killed nearly 2,000 people.

The Swiss army is holding a special medical battalion in reserve for potential requests by regional health authorities for assistance. (Reporting by John Miller, Emma Farge, and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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