GENEVA

The Swiss government said Wednesday it will drop most of its COVID-19 restrictions from Thursday despite the omicron variant triggering record levels of infections.

“The epidemiological situation continues to develop positively. Thanks to the high level of immunity among the population, it is unlikely that the healthcare system will be overburdened despite the continued high level of virus circulation,” the government said in a statement.

“Switzerland is taking a decisive and important step towards normality,” Ignazio Cassis, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, told journalists at a news conference in the capital Bern.

From Thursday, people in Switzerland will no longer have to show a COVID-19 certificate to enter bars, restaurants, and other indoor venues such as sports facilities, theaters, or concert halls.

The certificates had been used to prove its holder was vaccinated, had tested negative, or had recovered from the virus, evoking protests in some cities of Switzerland, particularly in the German part.

The wearing of masks will no longer be mandatory in schools, shops, concert halls, or workplaces.

“Masks and COVID certificates will no longer be required to enter shops, restaurants, cultural venues, and other public settings and events,” said the government after a Cabinet meeting.

“The requirement to wear masks in the workplace and the recommendation to work from home will also end.”

Masks needed on public transport

Mask-wearing will, however, remain obligatory until the end of March on public transport and in healthcare facilities.

Those who test positive for COVID-19 have to self-isolate for five days.

From October 2021, the Swiss government imposed tight restrictions after cases linked to COVID-19 surged.

The number of new coronavirus infections rose steeply in Switzerland from mid-October last year as the colder weather brought more people inside and later spread with the arrival of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

On Feb. 8, health experts announced that the number of new infections had finally peaked, and they said they have since been falling steadily.

A total of 21,032 new coronavirus cases were reported in Switzerland on Wednesday.

The Health Ministry said that the seven-day average daily figure is down by almost a quarter compared with the previous week.

As of Wednesday, some 70% of Switzerland’s population of 8.6 million have received at least one vaccine shot and over 68% have been fully vaccinated.

Switzerland said it follows several other European countries, such as Denmark, Britain, France, and the Netherlands, which have gradually eased COVID-19 measures in recent weeks.

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