Swiss propose allowing open-air events in latest COVID-19 relaxation

ZURICH, March 12 (Reuters) - Switzerland proposed on Friday further steps to relax coronavirus restrictions, although the government said the situation remained “fragile” with the country facing a potential third wave of COVID-19.

Outside events like football matches and concerts with audiences of up to 150 people would be allowed once more, while inside events at cinemas and theatres could draw up to 50 attendees, the government said.

Audiences would still have to wear masks and keep at least 1.5 meters apart, the government said. It also raised the limits on household gatherings to 10 people from five.

The measures are due to take effect from March 22, although the government said the situation remained uncertain amid a recent rise in the number of coronavirus cases. It would take a final decision on March 19.

“The current epidemiological situation remains very fragile and the further development of the epidemic is unclear,” the government said.

“Switzerland may be facing a third wave of disease. This can be assumed, even if the impact of the first opening step of March 1 cannot yet be assessed.”

Switzerland last week unveiled a 1 billion Swiss franc ($1.08 billion) plan to offer free coronavirus tests for its entire population as part of measures to ease the exit from COVID-19 restrictions.

Switzerland is slowly emerging from its latest lockdown, with shops, museums, and libraries reopening this month and sporting and cultural activities for youngsters resuming.

Schools and many ski lifts are open, but restaurants and cultural venues remain closed. The government said school-leaving and apprenticeship examinations would take place normally this year.

So far more than 9,400 people have died of COVID-19 in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein during the pandemic, while more than 570,00 cases here have been confirmed.

$1 = 0.9297 Swiss francs Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Michael Shields