ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland will allow events of more than 1,000 people from Oct. 1, provided organizers follow hygiene measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, the government decided on Wednesday.
Permission from local authorities will also be required for events, the government said, as it seeks ways to further ease the restrictions which have gripped the country since March.
But while easing audience limits, the government on Wednesday also ordered that face masks must be worn by passengers on all flights. Masks have been compulsory on buses, trains and trams since early July.
The planned easing on event attendances comes as Switzerland seeks to strike a balance between the need to kick-start its economy as the number of COVID-19 infections start to rise again following the easing of previous measures.
The country, which normally posts a budget surplus, faces a projected 2020 deficit of more some $23 billion this year, hurt by lower receipts and costly programmes to offset the new coronavirus’s hit to the economy.
Switzerland and neighboring Liechtenstein reported 274 new infections and one death on Wednesday. More than 37,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, with more than 1,700 deaths.
The daily count of new infections had shrunk to the teens in June, before rising in recent weeks.
“The main argument to easing, after six-months of pandemic in Switzerland, is learning to live with the virus, while returning to some semblance of normalcy,” Health Minister Alain Berset told a press conference.
Events for more than 1,000 people have been banned in Switzerland since Feb. 28, forcing many cancellations.
“We’re pleased when coronavirus restrictions are eased…and every time the infection rate rises, the easing gets people worried,” Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga said. “Every new easing of restrictions brings new responsibilities.”
(Reporting by John Miller and Michael Shields, editing by John Revill)