Switzerland might allow events with up to 3,000 spectators from July, the government said on Wednesday, although such events would be restricted to attendees who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, can prove they’ve recovered from the illness or test negative.
The government said this was not a re-opening plan, but rather a roadmap to prepare cantons and event organizers should events be possible. The actual decision on whether to allow large events was due in the second half of June.
The government also laid out a scheme to provide financial assistance of up to 5 million Swiss francs ($5.5 million) for event organizers, should they be required to cancel scheduled events on short notice due to a deteriorating epidemiological situation.
The federal government’s plan, backed by a 150 million franc fund, calls for local cantonal governments to contribute an equal amount.
Swiss President Guy Parmelin said plans for possible events of more than 3,000 people from July and 10,000 from September come as Switzerland navigates an increasingly complex pandemic environment: Vaccines allow a possible exit from the crisis, while new challenges like coronavirus variants keep the situation shrouded in uncertainty.
“New variants like the one documented in India are creating more and more questions,” Parmelin told a news conference in Bern. “Despite having a certain optimism, we have to remain careful.”
The government said last week it does not expect further large-scale relaxations of coronavirus restrictions until May 26, citing the fragile public health situation.
The country is now in a so-called “protection phase”, to last until vulnerable groups like the elderly have all completed vaccination, likely by the end of May.
Switzerland this month further eased its COVID-19 restrictions, allowing restaurants to reopen outdoor terraces and sports events to take place with audiences. Cinemas and concert venues can readmit limited numbers of guests.
The death toll from the pandemic in Switzerland and neighboring Liechtenstein surpassed 10,000 on Wednesday as the number of cases remains stubbornly high, Public Health data showed.