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GENEVA

Geneva to relax some coronavirus restrictions

Three weeks after implementing Switzerland’s toughest Covid-19 measures, Geneva is lifting a number of its restrictions from November 21st.

Geneva to relax some coronavirus restrictions
The number of Coronavirus patients in Geneva hospitals has dropped. Photo by AFP

Noting that the number of coronavirus infections “seems to have flattened” in the canton in recent days, Geneva authorities decided on Wednesday “to launch a process of easing anti-COVID measures.”

The decision is “based on the principle that the sacrifices made by the population will confirm this downward trend in the days to come”, cantonal authorities announced.

From Saturday, certain activities involving close personal contacts, including hairdressers, beauty salons, barbers and tattoo parlours, will be allowed to re-open.

The ban on fitness activities will also be lifted for groups of up to five people, as long as the activities do not involve physical contact. These sessions must be organised by appointment, as fitness facilities will remain closed to general public.

Sports training will also be allowed. All these activities “must strictly comply with the reinforced protection plans” and masks must be worn at all times, authorities said.

However, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues will not re-open for the time being, though “the aim is to give restaurants and non-essential shopkeepers the opportunity to open before Christmas”, State Councillor Mauro Poggia said.

READ MORE: UPDATE: What's the latest on the Covid-19 situation in Geneva? 

One of the reasons for easing the measures is to prevent Genevans from defying lockdown and going to shop and use personal care services like hairdressers in the nearby canton of Vaud, where measures are not as strict. 

 “It is unacceptable that Genevans go to Vaud to do what is forbidden in Geneva,” Poggia said.

In order to rein in the skyrocketing number of infections and hospitalisations, authorities introduced a slew of restrictions on October 31st, closing all non-essential stores and businesses — measures that went beyond those ordered on national level as well as by individual cantons.

As recently as the first week of November, Geneva had Europe’s highest number of contaminations per capita and its university hospital was reaching the limit of patients with coronavirus-related complications.

However, the number of daily reported cases dropped from over 1,000 in the first week of November to 400 on Tuesday. 

The number of hospitalisations, though still high, went down slightly from 642 on November 16th to 568 on Tuesday.

Vaud 

From midnight on Wednesday, Vaud allows the practice of individual indoor sports, provided there is sufficient space of 15 square-metres per person.  On the other hand, this limit is lowered to 4 m2, when the practice is static and does not cause significant effort. 

In the cultural field, the State Council authorises rehearsals in groups of up to 30 people, as long as masks are worn.

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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