Switzerland aims to ease COVID-19 restrictions, starting with hairdressers
ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland announced Thursday that it will let hairdressers, beauty salons and some other businesses reopen from April 27 to begin a gradual easing of restrictions following a slowdown in new coronavirus infections.
The announcement came on the same day the regional director of the World Health Organization said European countries must act with extreme caution when considering easing lockdowns.
But neighboring Austria and Germany have started their own interim measures to come out of their closures. Business groups have also lobbied the Swiss government to ease restrictions to lessen the blow to the economy.
Hospitals will be allowed to perform all procedures, even elective surgeries from April 27, and hairdressers, massage parlors and beauty salons will be allowed to reopen, the government said in a statement.
Most stores, schools and food markets will follow suit from May 11, he added. Currently, only grocery stores, pharmacies and other “essential” businesses are open.
In a third step, he announced that he would reopen vocational schools and universities from June 8. One step would only move to the next if there was no significant increase in COVID-19 cases, the government said.
“The spread of the coronavirus has been slowed down and our hospitals are not overloaded,” Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga told a press conference.
“We want to make sure there isn’t a resurgence of infections and we don’t want to jeopardize the gains we’ve made. This is why we ask people to respect our measures of social distancing and hygiene. “
Switzerland, which imposed its restrictions last month, reported 26,732 infections and 1,017 deaths on Thursday.
But the infection rate has slowed in recent days, after peaking at the end of March with nearly 1,500 new cases per day. The figure has slowed to around 200 per day.
Swiss business groups hailed the easing, although some said they wished the government had gone further.
“With today’s decision, many companies and employees finally have a renewed vision for the future,” said Monika Ruehl, CEO of the economic lobby economicuisse. “However, we regret that the exit from the crisis described today is taking so long.”
The country’s economy, dependent on exports, faces major challenges, despite an aid program of 62 billion Swiss francs ($ 64 billion), the largest in Swiss history.
A scenario presented by government economists showed that the economy shrank by 10% this year, which would be the most severe recession on record.
Emergency loans have been given to companies and the scheme which covers most of the wages of workers on leave has been extended.
“We have proven in recent weeks and days that together we are strong, despite these very difficult times,” said Minister of Economic Affairs Guy Parmelin. “From today, we are planning a new future. Let’s help each other, stay innovative, because together, we will find solutions.
Reporting by John Revill, Silke Koltrowitz and John Miller, editing by Michael Shields and Andrew Heavens