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Officials in Switzerland had stopped short of imposing full confinement in emergency measures introduced last month to combat the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,000 people in the Alpine country.
Those restrictions will be gradually eased in three stages: on April 27, May 11 and finally on June 8, the government said.
“We have been able to slow down the infections, the hospitals are not overcrowded, which is good news, and we can now foresee some relaxation,”
“We have been able to slow down the infections, the hospitals are not overcrowded, which is good news, and we can now foresee some relaxation,” Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga told a press conference in Bern.
“In light of epidemiological developments and the recommendations of scientists, the Federal Council has decided to relax measures to protect the population against the new coronavirus from April 27th,” the government said in a statement.
While some businesses will be allowed to open, others will be required or recommended to have staff wear masks.
“As a first step, from April 27, the Federal Council decided to relax the restrictions for activities that involve few direct contacts, that do not cause significant flows of people and for which it is easy to set up protection plans,” the government said in a statement.
“The health of the Swiss population remains the top priority, in particular that of the vulnerable,” the government statement said.
“This is why flexibility is accompanied by protection plans.
“The Federal Council also wants to minimise economic damage and reduce restrictions on fundamental rights as much as possible.”
On April 27th, retail and cosmetic shops will be allowed to open again.
This includes hairdressers, tattoo parlours, massage salons, cosmetic and makeup salons, hardware stores, garden centres and flower shops.
Restrictions on hospitals and medical centres performing non-essential procedures will also be lifted, with doctors, dentists and physiotherapists again allowed to carry out general work which had been restricted by the coronavirus.
These activities had been heavily restricted in order to lower the risk of coronavirus infection should people visit hospitals and medical care facilities.
From May 11th, compulsory schools as well as all remaining shops and markets will be permitted to open.
The final decision will be made on April 29th, however this is expected to stay in place provided the rate of new infections does not increase unexpectedly.
In order to monitor this, a contract tracing app will be rolled out across the country.
From June 8th, secondary schools, universities and vocational schools will be allowed to open.
Libraries, museums, botanical gardens and zoos will be reopened at this time.
Other restrictions will be relaxed, for example the ban on meeting in groups larger than five outside the house, although this will only happen under certain conditions.
As for major gatherings like concerts, the government has not yet set a date.
As with the May 11th phase, the final decision on the June 8th phase will be made on May 27th – provided again there are no notable increases in infections.