Coronavirus: Federal Council takes first cautious step to reopen from 1 March
Bern, 24.02.2021 - From Monday, 1 March, shops, museums and library reading rooms can reopen, along with outdoor sports and leisure facilities, zoos and botanical gardens. Outdoor events for family and friends and sports and cultural activities involving up to 15 people will also be permitted. Young people up to the age of 20 will be able to take part in most sporting and cultural activities without restriction. This is what the Federal Council decided at its meeting on 24 February 2021 after consulting the cantons. The next stage in reopening is scheduled for 22 March, but will depend on the epidemiological situation.
With this cautious reopening, the Federal Council is aiming to achieve a gradual normalisation of social and economic life, even though the epidemiological situation remains precarious because new, more infectious variants of the virus are circulating. The initial reopening phase from 1 March essentially involves activities that allow people to wear masks and maintain social distancing, and that only involve small numbers of people or meeting outdoors. In addition to the risk of infection, the Federal Council has also taken social and economic factors into consideration.
Open again: shops, museums, zoos, sports facilities, up to 15 people outdoors
All shops can reopen, but customer numbers will be restricted. Museums and the reading rooms in libraries and archives will also be allowed to open. Outdoor areas at zoos, botanical gardens and leisure facilities will welcome visitors again, but in restricted numbers, wearing masks and maintaining the required distance. Outdoor sports facilities, such as ice rinks, tennis courts, football pitches and athletics grounds will also reopen, again with restricted numbers of users, who must wear masks and maintain the required distance. Competitions in adult grassroots sports and other events remain prohibited. Outdoor gatherings of family and friends involving up to 15 people will be permitted.
Under 20s: no restrictions on sports or cultural activities, but no spectators
The Federal Council has expanded the range of activities permitted for children, teenagers and young adults. It is raising the age limit at which restrictions on sports and cultural activities apply from 16 to 20 (i.e. to include those born in 2001 and later). In addition, sports competitions and concerts will again be permitted, but without spectators or an audience. Children's and youth choirs will be allowed sing again. In addition, social facilities for children and teenagers, such as youth clubs, will also reopen.
Consultation with the cantons: some concerns considered
The cantons support the Federal Council's risk-based reopening strategy and welcome the measures proposed. In reaching its decision, the Federal Council took certain concerns raised by the cantons and other parties into consideration, for example in setting a date for the next stage of reopening, in easing the measures imposed on young adults and in allowing outdoor gatherings. However, in view of the precarious epidemiological situation, the Federal Council decided not to open outdoor areas at restaurants from 1 March, despite a small majority of cantons being in favour of doing so.
Targets for further reopening on 22 March
The next stage in reopening is scheduled for 22 March; consultations with the cantons will begin on 12 March and the Federal Council will take its decision on 19 March. It is planned to include cultural and sporting events with a limited number of spectators, changes to the requirement to work from home, indoor sports and the opening of outdoor areas at restaurants. The Federal Council has set targets that must be achieved before the next step is taken: the positivity rate must be below five per cent, fewer than 250 beds in intensive care units should be occupied by COVID-19 patients, and the average reproduction rate over the previous seven-day period must be below 1. In addition, the 14-day incidence rate on 17 March should not be higher than it is when measures are eased on 1 March.
The Federal Council will make a general assessment of these targets in reaching its decision. If the epidemiological situation improves in the coming weeks, it will also consider reopening indoor areas in restaurants and allowing other indoor activities, and reintroducing face-to-face teaching at universities from 22 March.
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