Coronavirus: Should you cancel your trip to (or from) Switzerland?
As the number of confirmed cases continue to rise - and with almost all cantons in Switzerland affected - do you need to change your travel plans?
A major concern of readers of The Local Switzerland - whether based here or abroad - is whether travel plans should be reconsidered.
Plenty of readers are worried about travelling to Switzerland, while there are also some who are concerned they may not be able to return should they leave.
What is the situation?
Coronavirus continues to spread throughout Switzerland. At Tuesday evening, March 10th, there were almost 500 cases in 21 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons.
Three people have died: one in the northern canton of Basel Country, one in the western canton of Vaud and one in the southern canton of Ticino.
Are there any travel restrictions?
As at Tuesday evening, March 10th, there have been no travel restrictions adopted anywhere in Switzerland.
On Tuesday, foreign minister Ignazio Cassis reiterated his commitment to keeping the country’s internal and external borders open, while also calling for more European cooperation to tackle the outbreak.
There are no internal restrictions when travelling from canton to canton.
While the issue of restrictions on Switzerland’s southern border with Italy has been debated, Cassis on Tuesday said such measures would be of little help and therefore we’re not being considered.
Unlike in neighbouring Austria - which has closed its borders to entrants from Italy - Switzerland remains open and transport links remain unblocked.
The Swiss government has however said that random controls on the southern border may be increased, with cross-border workers from Ticino encouraged to carry their G-Permits.
On Wednesday, March 11th, the following border crossings from Italy to Ticino were closed (with suggested alternatives):
Pedrinate -> Chiasso strada (Ponte Chiasso)
Ponte Faloppia -> Novazzano Brusata (Bizzarone), Chiasso strada
Novazzano Marcetto -> Novazzano Brusata (Bizzarone), Chiasso strada
San Pietro di Stabio -> Stabio Gaggiolo
Ligornetto Cantorn -> Stabio Gaggiolo
Arzo -> Stabio Gaggiolo, Brusino Arsizio
Ponte Cremenaga -> Fornasette o Ponte Tresa
Cassinone -> Fornasette
Indemini -> Dirinella (Zenna)
What kinds of events are restricted?
In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung, Health Minister Alain Berset stressed that each person must follow precautionary measures, in particular by avoiding handshakes and kisses.
People are also be asked to reduce contact with each other, through “social distancing measures”, Koch said.
The Swiss government has already banned public events of more than 1,000 people and the country's football league has been suspended until at least March 23rd.
The cantonal authorities are to decide on events with less than 1000 participants.
Sports events, carnivals, concerts, and exhibits, including the Geneva International Motor Show, have been cancelled until March 15th at least. On that day, depending on the coronavirus situation in the country, authorities will lift or extend the restrictions.
In Zurich, bars and nightclubs have been advised by the canton’s peak nightlife body to record and store identification details as well as refusing any guests with signs of a cold.
How about transport?
A spokesperson for Swiss rail authority SBB told news outlet Watson “Passengers from Switzerland can travel to Italy without restrictions. We are going as long as the Italian authorities do not give any other instructions”.
Rail passengers told AFP their identity documents were being checked on arrival to make sure they were residents of Milan.
Image: JOHN MACDOUGALL / AFP
The Swiss government did however warn Swiss residents not to go to regions in northern Italy affected by the coronavirus. Officials from Austria have also called upon Austrians in Italy to return home.
Italian authorities have indicated they will carry out border controls to ensure their quarantine measures were respected.
The border also remains open for the movement of goods.
Travel by air
Ryanair and British Airways cancelled flights to Italy on Tuesday afternoon.
Airlines including EasyJet and Alitalia were still serving airports in Milan and Venice -- the region's two biggest transport hubs -- even as all three companies announced fresh cuts to their flight schedules serving northern Italy.
Ryanair had said on Monday it was reducing services in part because many passengers were not turning up for flights they had booked.
But the airline said it wanted to maintain some services to Italy "to bring home" foreigners in Lombardy and other virus-hit regions.
Airlines had already been cutting routes in recent weeks and national carrier Alitalia said it would stop flying from Milan's Malpensa airport. An AFP photographer at Malpensa said the terminal was virtually deserted on Monday morning.
However, domestic flights from the city's Linate airport would continue, Alitalia said.