Swiss to further relax COVID-19 restrictions from next week

ZURICH, April 14 (Reuters) - The Swiss government announced further easing of its COVID-19 restrictions on Wednesday, allowing restaurants to reopen outdoor terraces from next week and sports events to take place with audiences.

The government said cinemas, theatres and concert venues will also be allowed to readmit guests from Monday, April 19, although visitors will have to wear masks and keep a safe distance apart.

Universities and adult education centres will be allowed to resume in-person classes at reduced capacity, it added.

The steps comes despite the government saying the infection situation remained fragile and had actually worsened in recent days.

“Although the situation remains fragile, the risk of further opening is acceptable to the Federal Council,” the government said in a statement.

Switzerland’s easing contrasts with neighbouring Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking temporary powers from parliament to enforce coronavirus lockdowns in areas with high infection rates to halt the advance of a third wave.

The numbers of cases have continued to steadily rise in Switzerland, a situation worsened by the spread of new variants of the COVID-19 virus.

On Wednesday the number of cases increased by 2,601, taking the total infections to 627,968. The death toll in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein rose by 14 to 9,844.

Switzerland last month postponed plans to relax its restrictions, citing increasing case numbers and insufficient progress on vaccinations.

It had previously planned to allow outdoor events like football matches and concerts with up to 150 people, but instead opted for a more cautious approach as neighbouring France and Germany also reined in reopening.

On Wednesday it said such events would now be allowed to take place with 100 visitors outside, and up to 50 audience members at indoor venues such as cinemas, theatres and concert halls. (Reporting by John Revill, editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi)