Explained: What's the difference between Switzerland’s two lists of high-risk Covid-19 countries?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Explained: What's the difference between Switzerland’s two lists of high-risk Covid-19 countries?
Some foreigners are allowed into Switzerland and others aren't. Photo by AFP

The Swiss government has two different ‘high-risk’ coronavirus lists: one is of countries whose nationals are banned from entering Switzerland, and the other of those who must quarantine upon arrival. Both are updated regularly.


The first list is established by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), and the second by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

The first is primarily intended for foreigners who wish to come to Switzerland; the second is more geared towards residents of Switzerland who want to travel abroad.

First, the SEM list

Entry into Switzerland has been restricted since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Residents of many countries that are not part of the Schengen Area or some ‘safe’ EU / EFTA and third nations are banned from entry.

There is, however, a "but". If, in principle, entry into Swiss territory is prohibited, there are also exemptions.

Third-country nationals who have an employment contract, who come to receive medical treatment, or to study can continue to enter Switzerland, even if they are residents of countries on the list.

READ MORE: UPDATED: Who can enter Switzerland right now?

The ban therefore applies above all to tourists, people who would like to visit relatives in Switzerland, or foreign nationals who are looking for work.


The FOPH list

Regardless of these restrictions, entry into Switzerland is subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine from certain countries. 

The FOPH considers a country to be at risk from the moment the number of cases exceeds 60 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days. It is intended in particular for residents of Switzerland who are leaving or returning from vacation.

This is why the lists are confusing:

These lists can be tricky to get your head around. So let’s look at three specific examples.

- A US resident is not allowed to come to Switzerland as a tourist, as the United States is on the SEM’s 'high risk' list. On the other hand, Swiss residents in the United States have the right to return to the country, but they will have to quarantine themselves, since the US is included on the FOPH ‘high-risk’ group of countries.

- Spanish residents may come to Switzerland because Spain is a member of the Schengen Area. However, they will have to quarantine, as the country is on the FOPH list.

- Finally, a Turkish national who has found a job in Switzerland will be able to come to the country, although his or her country is listed on the SEM list. This person would not have to observe a quarantine, since Turkey is not on the FOPH list.

Is this all clear now? Check out the government website for more information: SEM and FOPH



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