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Swiss flock to mountains and lakes as lockdown eases

People visited beauty spots in Switzerland in large numbers over the long Whitsun weekend as lockdown measures were further eased. Various roads were closed due to heavy traffic. 

After the coronavirus measures were further eased on May 30 – allowing gatherings of up to 30 people – residents across the country took to the roads and public transport over the long weekend to visit mountains and lakes. 

In canton Bern in central Switzerland there were reports of heavy traffic on Sunday as drivers headed to Interlaken and the Bernese Oberland mountains. There was also heavy congestion near beauty spots in cantons Glarus, Zug and Appenzell Inner-Rhodes. The Glarus police had to block several roads when some sites became overcrowded.

The popular Verzasca Valley in canton Ticino in southern Switzerland also saw a big influx of visitors.

Fancy a dip?

In Geneva, 30 beaches and lakeside swimming spots opened to the public for the first time, with visitors recommended to continue to respect social distancing measures. In Lausanne, authorities introduced a summer-long ban on cars along a popular lakeside road.

PostBus reported busy services, especially on routes leading to the start of mountain hikes, according to spokeswoman Valérie Gerl. In trains, the occupancy rates varied from line to line, reaching a maximum of 80% on some sections. 

While there were few reports of problems from police, in Zurich officers had to intervene a dozen times to prevent large gatherings of cyclists and people meeting at public lakeside areas that are still closed.

Meanwhile, the air assistance organisation REGA reported carrying out a total of 130 rescue missions over the weekend, including winching stranded hikers or injured bikers from the mountains.

Many of the unprecedented lockdown measures have been relaxed in Switzerland owing to a positive evolution of the pandemic, including the easing of some border restrictions. For now, however, most Swiss people are unable to leave the country. The government plans to lift travel restrictions with France, Germany and Austria on June 15. But it has told southern neighbour Italy that lifting border controls from June 3, a decision announced by Italy, was “too early”.