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Q&A: What travellers to Switzerland should know about the new 10-day quarantine rule

Since Monday July 6th, travellers entering Switzerland from one of 31 high-risk countries have been forced to quarantine.

Q&A: What travellers to Switzerland should know about the new 10-day quarantine rule
10-day quarantine is required when returning from some countries. Photo by MICHAEL BUHOLZER / AFP

As some of the explanations offered by the government regarding the quarantine are not specific or clear enough, the Local asked health authorities to provide more detail.

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

This is what we know about the quarantine so far:

The countries concerned by the measure are 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.

MORE

Fines of up to CHF10,000 to be handed out for breaching coronavirus quarantine

– First coronavirus quarantines begin in Switzerland 

– Will Switzerland's ‘self-enforced' coronavirus quarantine actually work? 

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

People who purposefully fail to respect the terms of the quarantine — for instance, by going out or having guests — could be liable to a fine of up to 10,000 francs. 

People who negligently do so, i.e. through being unaware, will be liable for a fine of up to 5,000 francs. 

Where should people coming from one of the “high-risk” nations announce their arrival?

Authorities said that upon arriving in Switzerland from one of the high-risk countries, people must register with “competent authorities” in their canton of residence.

We found this to be quite vague, so we asked the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) to clarify this point.

FOPH spokesperson Daniel Dauwalder told The Local that the “competent” office in questions relating to the quarantine is the public health office (Kantonsarztamt / Office Cantonal de la Santé Publique / Medico Cantonale) of a given canton.

Here’s a list of all the relevant offices. 

The authorities mentioned a fine of up to 10,000 francs for not complying with the terms of the quarantine. But who is going to enforce this, and how?

Dauwalder said the health office of each canton will be responsible for monitoring the quarantine.

In a true Swiss fashion of entrusting people in matters of individual and social responsibility, the checks will be done by telephone, although it is not excluded that on site-visits will also be made.

If a person arriving from one of the “high-risk” countries can present a recent (for example, done within 48 hours) negative Covid-19 test, would the 10-day quarantine still be required?

Yes, Dauwalder said, as the traveller might have been infected between the period in which the test was done and their arrival in Switzerland.

READ MORE: How the Swiss quarantine rule will impact work and holiday plans 

If a person gets infected with Covid while in one of the at-risk countries and must be hospitalised, will the Swiss health insurance (LaMal) cover the costs of treatment abroad and any possible follow-up in Switzerland?

Ah, this is a tricky question.

The Local called one of the major insurance carriers, as well as one of the companies offering supplemental travel insurance, which normally pays the costs not covered by the obligatory insurance.

In both cases, the answer was basically the same: if you get infected with coronavirus while away in an at-risk country (one of the 31 nations included on the government list), you will probably not be covered for any medical costs abroad, especially if the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAE) has a travel alert in place for a country or advises against travel there due to health reasons.

So you should definitely contact the DFAE as well as your insurance carrier(s) before you go to a ‘risky’ destination.  

If you return from an at-risk country, will your employer pay for the time spent in quarantine?

If this was a business trip approved by your employer, then yes.

But if you went privately, then your company will not pay for the 10-day quarantine, as it was your own decision to travel to a risky destination.

However, you can spend the quarantine as part of your vacation, if you have enough holiday time to spare. 

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QUARANTINE

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.

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