The Swiss government will start a gradual relaxation of restrictions brought in to tackle spread of the new coronavirus from April 27, it said on Thursday.
Doctors, hairdressers, massage and cosmetics parlors will be the first businesses to be allowed to reopen, it said. This will be followed by compulsory schools, shops and markets from May 11, it added.
In a third stage it will reopen secondary schools, vocational schools and universities from June 8. The government also foresees allowing an existing ban of meetings of more than five people to be relaxed, although the details of this stage will be announced at the end of May.
“The transition from one stage to the next will take place when there has been no significant increase in COVID-19 cases,” the government said.
“Sufficient time must elapse between each stage to allow the effects of the relaxation to be observed. The criteria are the number of new infections, hospital admissions and deaths, and hospital occupancy rates.”
Switzerland has shuttered schools, non-essential shops and many businesses for a month as it sought to halt the epidemic’s spread. It has also extended billions in financial assistance to businesses and eased bankruptcy rules, to prevent companies from going under.
Europe should move with extreme caution when considering easing lockdowns, the World Health Organization’s regional director said on Thursday.
The COVID-19 outbreak has so far claimed 973 lives in Switzerland, although the rate of positive tests has slowed in recent days.
Neighbouring Austria has already announced a partial exit from its own lockdown, while Germany has announced its own small steps out of the lockdown.