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Restaurants to re-open despite high Covid infection rate 

Restaurant terraces will be able to reopen, with hygiene measures. Keystone/Jean-Christophe Bott

The Swiss government has decided to allow outdoor tables in restaurants and bars again as of next Monday, following a four-month temporary closure.

As part of its anti-Covid strategy, cultural and sports events will be open to the public under certain conditions, a government statement said. The number of spectators will be limited to 100 outdoors and 50 indoors and strict hygiene rules must be observed.

Universities and further education institutions will be allowed to offer regular classes, and certain amateur sports activities are also to resume.

However, work-from home rules will remain in place for the time being, Interior Minister Alain Berset told a news conference on Wednesday.

The move, which was announced following a government meeting, comes amid pressure from the business community, political parties, cantons and interest groups to relax anti-Covid measures. There have also been street protests in several towns across the country over the past few weeks. But many scientists have warned against an early easing of restrictions.

Calculated risk 

Berset said the government is taking a calculated risk as the epidemiological situation in Switzerland remained fragile, but it was under control.

The vaccine rollout was gaining momentum and the testing was being extended, he added.

“We have confidence in the population to show self-responsibility and that it continues to observe the necessary safety precautions,” Berset said. “The easing must not be taken as a signal to the population that the pandemic is over,” he warned.

Bars and restaurants were closed just before Christmas time. In mid-January the government ordered a second partial lock down.

In mid-March, the government postponed a decision to relax restrictions, saying there was a risk of infections spiraling out of control.

Berset said the government would decide on further steps in the coming weeks if the situation does not worsen as a result of the latest decisions.

Jabs 

The vaccination campaign has only made slow progress in Switzerland since January. Currently only about 8% of the population have received the full dose of the anti-Covid jab. Experts say it could take up to six months to immunize all those who agree to be vaccinated.

A survey, commissioned by the Federal Office for Public Health, found that there is a growing willingness in Switzerland to get vaccinated, notably among the older population and in the French-speaking part of the country.

Women appear to be more critical of the vaccination than men, according to the report by the Sotomo research instituteExternal link, which analysed the findings of a poll carried out in March among nearly 1,700 respondents.

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