How the Swiss quarantine rule will impact work and holiday plans

Starting from July 6th, people arriving in Switzerland from countries designated by the Federal Council as “high-risk” will have to self-quarantine for 10 days. How will this new ruling affect holiday and work plans?

How the Swiss quarantine rule will impact work and holiday plans
One activity you can safely do during a quarantine is watch the world go by. Photo by MICHAEL BUHOLZER / AFP

This week the authorities released a list of 31 countries where Covid-19 infections are still high. Arrivals from these regions will have to self-isolate for 10 days to prevent a second wave of the pandemic. 

The full list is: Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Chile, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Qatar, Colombia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Moldova, North Macedonia, Oman, Panama, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Serbia, South Africa, Turks and Caicos Islands and the United States.

Anyone entering Switzerland from one of these countries must go straight to their own house or other suitable accommodation and stay there continuously for 10 days.

The person must also notify their cantonal authorities that they have returned from an at-risk country. People failing to do so could be liable to a fine of up to 10,000 francs.

What does this new measure mean for people who have been planning to go to one of these countries in the coming weeks?

A US expat, Margaret, told The Local she already has tickets to fly to New York later in July to visit her ageing parents, but now may have to reconsider her plans.

The United States is not on the list of countries whose citizens are authorised to enter Switzerland, but as a dual US / Swiss citizen, Margaret has the right to travel freely both ways. 

“I took two weeks off work and was going away for 10 days”, she said.

“Now however, I’d have to extend my vacation time to three weeks to fit in the 10-day quarantine”.

Margaret has not yet decided what to do, “but I am leaning toward cancelling the trip”, she said.

She is not alone.

“People in the international community will certainly ask themselves questions”, before going to their home country, Dominique Fumeaux, the head of the tourism section of the University of Applied Sciences of Western Switzerland told RTS television. 

 Italian, French, and Portuguese citizens, who make up the largest foreign community in Switzerland will not be impacted by the quarantine ruling, as their respective nations are not on the “high risk” list.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's new quarantine requirement

Neither are people from most of the EU / EFTA nations, as well as the UK.

However, people from the Balkans, who also constitute a big portion of Switzerland’s international population, may have to think twice before vacationing in their home countries.

That’s because arrivals from Serbia, North Macedonia, and Kosovo are among those required to self-isolate.

Just like for Margaret, the quarantine obligation may cause problems in terms of vacation time taken off work, especially now as numerous Swiss companies have ceased home working and asked their employees to resume on-site work.

“Legally speaking, an employer has no right to forbid an employee from spending holidays in a country of their choice, or dictate where they can or cannot go”, Christoph Reymond, general director of an Employers Association said in an interview.

However, he added that companies can ask employees not to vacation in high-risk places so as not to extend their vacation time beyond the period they originally intended to take.

As for the quarantine itself, Reymond said it is a positive step for employers.

“We see it as a measure to prevent another total lockdown and a further damage to the economy”, he pointed out.



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Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Switzerland will shorten the obligatory quarantine for anyone testing positive for Covid to five days, while extending the current measures until at least March. The duration of immunity for the Covid certificate will also be shortened.

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland on Wednesday announced a range of changes to the existing Covid measures. 

As had been widely reported ahead of the announcement, the Covid quarantine period for positive cases was shortened from the current ten days to five for vaccinated and recovered people. 

People can leave quarantine after five days, provided they are symptom free for 48 hours. Based on the new advice, it does not appear a person needs to test negative – although the government has been contacted for a confirmation on this question. 

EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid quarantine rules?

The quarantine change applies both to people who have tested positive and those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. 

“Close contact” will also be redefined. Now it will not include everyone someone with Covid has had contact with, but will be limited to the people they live with and people who had “regular and close” contact with a person who tested positive. 

The close contact quarantine will not apply to people who have had a booster in the past four months, but it will apply to those who have had two doses.

The unvaccinated will need to remain in quarantine for the original ten days. 

Cantons can decide to grant exemption to the quarantine rules. 

The duration of immunity under the rules of Switzerland’s Covid certificate will be reduced from one year to 270 days, i.e. nine months.

This is due to the belief that immunity due either to vaccination or recovery declines earlier than previously thought. 

The 270-day requirement applies to those who are fully vaccinated or to people who have previously had the virus.

This shortening of the time period for the validity of the Covid certificate will apply from February 1st, as with the EU’s rules for international travel. 

The current Covid measures, which are outlined in the link below, will also be extended. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

While they were set to expire on January 24th, they will now be extended until March 31st. 

The government said the extension was necessary due to the situation in the country’s hospitals. 

Amid skyrocketing infection rates, the Swiss government said it had prepared additional measures which could be implemented quickly and immediately if the situation required it. 

“Should the situation in hospitals deteriorate significantly, the Federal Council can still act swiftly by imposing stricter measures such as the closure of facilities and institutions or by limiting capacity at large-scale events, regardless of the consultation,” the government said in a press release

The government is currently in consultation with experts and the cantons about these and further measures, including tighter mask rules and a change in testing rules.

This consultation will last until the 17th of January, however those listed here are expected to apply. 

For the full list of changes announced you can visit the government site HERE.