For members


What changes in Switzerland in December 2019

Here's a look at all the important changes in Switzerland in December.

What changes in Switzerland in December 2019
Photo: AFP

MPs will elect the new cabinet (Federal Council) on December 11th 

Switzerland’s executive cabinet comprises seven members  representing the country’s largest parties. Each member heads a government department.

In the October parliamentary elections, the Green party made historic gains, getting an unprecedented 13 percent of the vote. It is now vying for two seats in the Federal Council, possibly replacing one member each of Social Democrats and Radical parties. 

The new cabinet will be in place until the next national elections in 2023.

Gun safety laws

Switzerland has the strongest gun culture of anywhere in Europe and perhaps the strongest in the world after the United States. 

That said, the country still strongly regulates the way in which citizens must store, use and acquire their guns. 

A range of new gun laws – including a higher fee on semi-automatic weapons – was introduced in August 2019, while from December onwards gun retailers will be required to meet a higher standard when selling their wares. 

From December 14th, 2019, arms dealers will need to notify the relevant cantonal authorities for every procurement, sale or distribution of firearms they engage in. 

This will help the authorities keep a better record of how many guns there are in circulation and who possesses them. 

Leman Express

As The Local covered in November, the Leman Express is set to open in the Geneva region in mid-December. 

The express train link – which is set to be the biggest cross-border train network in Europe – will reduce journey times and cut traffic in and around Geneva. 

When it opens on December 15th, it will comprise 45 stations and 230 kilometres of track – extending beyond the Geneva canton borders into Vaud as well as France. 

It will reduce road traffic in Geneva by 12 percent during peak hours. Almost half a million vehicles – 446,700 to be exact – crossed the cantonal borders of Geneva each day in 2018, as estimated by the Canton of Geneva.

According to the SBB, the network will include 40 new trains and will transport more than 50,000 people daily. The SBB has posted details of the route changes here.

As anyone who has spent time on Geneva’s roads will know, the city's traffic is the worst in Switzerland. According to the Tom Tom Traffic Index, which ranks the world's cities according to congestion and hours lost in traffic, Geneva is the worst in the country – around 25 places worse than second-placed Zurich.

Geneva even places lower than larger cities like Shanghai, Hamburg and Singapore – with Geneva losing 138 hours per year during peak hours on work days.

International trains


Direct trains from Paris to Bern are being axed, along with a number of other services. It’s all spelt out here.


Switzerland’s trains shift to their winter timetable

The coming cold means it’s finally time for winter sports. If you’re planning on hitting the slopes, the SBB has put in place a range of changes on its train networks which will come into place on the 21st of December. 

You can check out these links below.






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For members


Everything that changes in Switzerland in February 2021

The new year is just clicking into gear, but February 2021 is already bringing with it some important changes.

Everything that changes in Switzerland in February 2021
Photo by Louis from Pexels

We're only one month into 2021, but already a few things are changing. From car stickers to alarms – and of course coronavirus – are some important changes for February 2021. 

Car stickers

You had the entire month of January to purchase the 2021 motorway sticker to affix on your windshield. If you haven’t done it yet, then as of February 1st you could be fined 200 francs if you are caught driving on a motorway without it.

Testing the alarm signal

The general alarm signal will be tested nationwide, as it is every year, on February 3rd at 1.30 pm. The cantons will also broadcast a notification on the Alertswiss channels.

The general alarm signal – a steady oscillating siren lasting one minute – is intended  to alert the population of an impending emergency or disaster. 

Fines for failing to comply with coronavirus measures

Anyone who violates a coronavirus measure in Switzerland is liable for a fine of between 50 and 200 francs. 

The fines were decided upon at a meeting on January 27th and will be put in place from February 1st.

They are in addition to existing fines of up to 10,000 francs for failing to quarantine. 

EXPLAINED: What are the details of Switzerland's coronavirus restrictions? 

Anyone who fails to wear a mask in public transport, stations or other areas where masks are required risks a fine of up to 200 francs. 

The fines can also be issued for anyone who participates in a prohibited event or who organises an event or gathering which contravenes the country’s coronavirus measures. 

Under Switzerland's Epidemics Act, people can be fined up to CHF5,000 for negligent behaviour against coronavirus measures, and CHF10,000 for wilful behaviour. 

These fines are most often threatened for people who breach quarantine rules.

Railway disruptions

From Monday February 8th to April 1st, circulation at Bern Bümpliz Sud train station will be possible on one track only. This will result in a longer journey time between Fribourg and Bern.

Service in Bern between the IR15 train (Geneva-Airport-Lucerne) and the IC8 (Brig – Bern – Zurich – Romanshorn) may be disrupted.

Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) is recommending that passengers from French-speaking Switzerland travelling to Zurich and beyond use the IC1 trains via Bern or IC5 via Biel. 

Shorter quarantines

From February 8th, Switzerland will shorten the applicable coronavirus quarantine from ten days to seven.

This means those told to self-isolate can come out of quarantine after seven days, rather than 10, with a negative test result.

The quarantine rule also applies to incoming travellers from a country with a high risk of infection.

READ MORE: Switzerland to shorten coronavirus quarantine, require negative PCR test on all flight arrivals 

Free coronavirus testing

Switzerland has introduced free nationwide coronavirus testing programme for people without symptoms in an effort to prevent large-scale outbreaks.

From January 28th, “the federal government pays for persons without symptoms to be tested so that those who are particularly vulnerable can be better protected and local outbreaks of infection can be contained early on”, authorities announced on Wednesday. 

The government said it was prepared to spend more than a billion dollars the scheme, saying asymptomatic people were probably responsible for most new infections.

EXPLAINED: How will Switzerland’s mass testing scheme work?

Mandatory PCR test for all air arrivals

In addition, anyone arriving by air will need to present a negative PCR test from February 1st. 

This applies to people from high-risk and non-high-risk countries. Those arriving not by air will have to show a PCR test only if they are coming from a high-risk country. 

Electronic form required to enter Switzerland

Everyone who enters Switzerland other than by car is required to complete an electronic form before entering from February 8th onwards. 

The measure was announced on Wednesday, January 28th, by the Swiss government.

Everyone entering via plane, ship, bus and train – but not via car – will be required to complete the electronic entry form.

According to the official government advice about the new requirement, “this means that infections can be traced back more quickly and easily and chains of infection can be broken early.”

More information is available at the following link. 

READ MORE: All passengers arriving in Switzerland required to register from February 8th 

End of shutdown

If the epidemiological situation allows it, the current coronavirus shutdown measures, such as the closure of restaurants, bars and non-essential businesses, should end on the last day of the month – February 28th.

These businesses have been shuttered since January 18th in an attempt to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variants from the UK and South Africa. 

Stay tuned to The Local Switzerland for coverage of Switzerland's coronavirus lockdown.