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Switzerland to ease virus lockdown curbs from March 1

Swiss government says more easing of restrictions could follow in April if COVID-19 infection rates kept down

Peter Kenny   | 19.02.2021
Switzerland to ease virus lockdown curbs from March 1 FILE PHOTO

GENEVA

With the level of COVID-19 infections slowing and vaccinations underway across Switzerland, the government has said it plans to start easing some national measures imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus from March 1.

“The number of new infections with the coronavirus has steadily declined in recent weeks.

“However, the epidemiological situation remains precarious because of the new, more infectious variants of the virus,” the Swiss federal government said on its website Friday.

On Wednesday, the Federal Council proposed a cautious, gradual easing of measures to allow society to reopen and economic activity to resume.

At the same time, every effort should be made to prevent a third wave of the disease, it said.

Meeting of up to 15 people will be allowed for private outdoor events, up from five now, and people up to the age of 18 rather than 16 will be able to take part in most sporting and cultural activities.

As in many parts of the world, COVID-19 has hit local businesses hard.

The Swiss hotel sector registered a 40% drop in overnight stays in 2020 compared with 2019, Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office said Friday.

Foreign demand fell by 66% as tourists stayed away due to the pandemic.

“The exceptional context of COVID-19 explains this unprecedented fall at a level not seen since the end of the 1950s,” said the Statistical Office.

As of March 1, shops, museums, and library reading rooms should be allowed to reopen and outside spaces at zoos and botanical gardens, and sports and leisure facilities, but with further consultation with the 26 cantons on Feb. 24.

Health Minister Alain Berset said that further relaxations will be made on April 1, provided virus infection rates are kept low.

Switzerland has reported 547,775 cases so far, and just over 9,200 deaths among its population of some 8.6 million, with the number of infections, reported this week down 20% from last week.

Some 847,900 vaccines had been delivered Friday and 613,346 first doses administered with 137,734 people fully vaccinated.

The reproductive number R for Switzerland that quantifies how many people are infected on average by an infected person is 0.82.

Berset said provided that vaccine deliveries continue at the current rate, every person in the country who wants a shot should be able to receive one by the end of June.

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