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Swiss plan further easing of COVID-19 limits as cases, deaths fall

·2 min read

ZURICH, May 12 (Reuters) - Switzerland aims to further ease its restrictions on public life on May 31, the government said on Wednesday, by allowing indoor restaurant dining and lifting work-from-home requirements for companies that test for coronavirus.

Larger cultural and sporting gatherings will also be allowed as the country edges back towards normality as COVID-19 death rates and infections decline.

A final decision, which will allow events with up to 300 spectators outdoors, up from 100, will be made on May 26 after consultation with the country's 26 cantons, the government said. The proposals come as Switzerland recorded 1,539 new infections on Wednesday, more than a day earlier but well under the seven-day average, with four confirmed deaths.

More than 2 million people have by now received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, nearly a quarter of the population.

The proposed relaxation of restrictions, which followed moves in April to re-open long-closed restaurant terraces, reflect the government's confidence that people are sticking to social-distancing rules, wearing masks and getting COVID-19 vaccines many see as critical to ending the pandemic.

"The epidemiological situation is growing less tense, as measured by case numbers, hospitalizations and the use of intensive care units," the government said. "The government sees a good chance that the situation in the hospitals in coming weeks will ease further, making a further opening step possible at the end of May."

If the easing proceeds as expected, up to 100 people will also be allowed to attend public indoor events, up from the limit of 50 at present.

With work-from-home requirements due to be lifted in favour of a recommendation for businesses to test regularly, Bern said it would assume more of the testing costs in order to reduce hurdles.

Discos would remain closed, however, and private events would still be limited to 10 people indoors and 15 people outdoors, due to higher infection risks, the government said.

These latest proposals come as Switzerland prepares to allow 3,000-person events for vaccinated attendees from July, if infections continue their downward trajectory.

(Reporting by John Miller, editing by John Revill)