Swiss to see families again as lockdown continues to ease

Switzerland is preparing to take the next step in lifting restrictions in place to slow the spread of coronavirus.

    'Welcome back. It starts again on May 11. We look forward to you.' Clothing stores in Zurich are among those gearing up for the reopening of commercial life in Switzerland [Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters]
    'Welcome back. It starts again on May 11. We look forward to you.' Clothing stores in Zurich are among those gearing up for the reopening of commercial life in Switzerland [Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters]

    Swiss citizens will soon once again be able to host their family members who live in the European Union, as the Alpine nation continues to ease restrictions imposed to reduce the spread of coronavirus.  

    And Switzerland's borders may soon be reopened, Bern hinted on Friday, with migration resuming and officials working to process a backlog of applications from people seeking employment in the country.

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    "The controls at the border will continue," the government said. "Border crossings will be opened in consultation with the domestic and foreign partner authorities and communicated accordingly."

    There have been more than 1,500 deaths from coronavirus in Switzerland, but the number of new cases has been on a downward trend for more than a month, with daily new cases in the past week numbering between 28 and 119.

    Among more than 30,000 registered cases in total, fewer than 23 percent were among the over-70s, which may help account for the relatively low death toll. 

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    With restaurants due to reopen from Monday, strict rules are in place to ensure customer and employee safety.

    Waiters and guests will not be required to wear masks, though kitchen personnel may have to. Tables will have a maximum of four people allowed at each, and they must be two metres (6.5 feet) apart or separated by dividing walls.

    Restaurants must ask for contact details from guests, though they are not obliged to provide them.

    But the government has not won over everybody with its schedule for reopening. A survey of more than 32,000 people across Switzerland carried out in the past week revealed only 36 percent supported the timetable for lifting lockdown.

    The study, carried out by the Sotomo Institute, said 23 percent of respondents thought the government was moving too slowly, while 42 percent said it was "fast" or "too fast", reported local media website Le News. However, a majority - 60 percent - said they had confidence in the government.  

    The Swiss government also said it would test a voluntary contact tracing app for smartphones meant to alert people if they have been too near people who later test positive for the coronavirus.

    The system, part of the nation's long-term strategy to contain COVID-19 and avoid being overwhelmed by a second wave, could go live once Parliament addresses the measure in June.

    The government also announced 65 million Swiss francs ($67 million) in aid for daycare centres after Parliament supported the move this week.

    Last month, Switzerland began fining "shopping tourists" - those who hopped the border to buy cheaper groceries, for example - for hindering the work of border guards. Those caught travelling internationally without good reason have been made to pay 100 francs ($104).

    SOURCE: News agencies