Tourists await the arrival of the excursion boat Linth on Lake Zurich, Switzerland, on Wednesday. Reuters
Switzerland will allow large concerts or sporting events topping 10,000 people starting on Saturday, provided attendees can produce so-called COVID certificates showing they are vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or tested negative.
The plan, announced on Wednesday by the government, puts Switzerland at Europe's vanguard of back-to-normal efforts and aligns with the country's "lockdown light" strategy, balancing protecting its economy with pandemic-related health measures.
Mask-wearing outdoors will no longer be required, restaurant seating will be unlimited and discos and dance clubs can re-open, although entry will be restricted to those with COVID-19 certificates.
"Just like at all facilities whose access is restricted to persons with a COVID-19 certificate, there is no mask requirement," the government said in a statement.
For events where no COVID certificate is required, attendance will be limited to 1,000 people when there is seating, or 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors if there is no seating arrangement.
Switzerland's re-opening plan accelerates previous proposals that foresaw allowing 5,000-person events in July and 10,000-person events come August 20.
Starting Saturday, Switzerland will also ease travel from European countries, the United States, Albania and Serbia, aiming to help the pandemic-hit tourism sector just as the summer travel season begins. Health measures on the border will concentrate only on those countries where variants of concern are spreading.
The more-transmissible Delta variant, initially documented in India, is gaining a foothold and is expected by the World Health Organisation and other nations to be the dominant strain within months.
"Vaccinated and recovered people... can enter without the obligation to test or quarantine, as long as it is certain that the vaccination offers good protection," the government said, adding others must be tested and go into quarantine.
More than 700,000 people in Switzerland and Liechtenstein have been infected with COVID-19, and more than 10,000 have died of it, public health data show.
It is the latest grim milestone after the novel coronavirus surfaced in central China in December 2019 and went on to infect more than 139 million people, leaving billions more under crippling lockdowns and ravaging the global economy.
Elsewhere in Europe, frustrations with COVID-19 curbs were spilling over, with scuffles breaking out at a large anti-restrictions protest in the German city of Kassel, and thousands joining a similar demonstration in Liestal, Switzerland.
England's months-old rules have been relaxed thanks in large part to a successful vaccination drive, enabling outdoor gatherings of up to six people, or two households, in what newspapers have dubbed "Happy Monday."
Like millions of other Britons, the prime minister will be able to have a trim and a tipple on Saturday, when the country takes its biggest step yet out of coronavirus lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and church.
The UAE has announced that its PCR tests can detect the new COVID-19 variant Omicron. The authorities made the statement during the weekly media briefing on latest development on COVID-19 in the country.
The Indian Air Force said on Twitter, “An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu. An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.”
The Ministry stressed in a statement on Wednesday that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.