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TRAVEL

European airlines demand end to quarantine ‘chaos’

European airlines on Tuesday urged national capitals to coordinate measures to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, saying the current patchwork of restrictions is hobbling a return to regular travel around the EU.

European airlines demand end to quarantine 'chaos'
A member of Charles de Gaulle airport personnel wears a protective face mask in the deserted passport control section of arrivals in Terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle international airport in Roissy nea

The hurdles have included “chaotic border restrictions along with confusion about quarantines, varying passenger locator forms and test requirements,” Airlines For Europe (A4E) director Thomas Reynaert said in a press conference held by video.

To overcome the piecemeal measures, A4E urged a “common approach”, backing calls from the European Commission for a central colour-coded map of areas in the bloc where the virus risk, is high to enable restrictions by region rather than “blanket national restrictions”.

Passengers should have access to “quick and reliable Covid-19 tests” and quarantines should be downgraded to “an instrument of last resort”, the airline group said.

“Low-risk” travellers including pilots and cabin crew ought to be excluded from travel restrictions, the companies added.

The airlines' appeal to governments comes after August saw passenger traffic plateau at around 30 percent of its level a year ago, according to A4E's own figures.

“A unified European testing programme is urgently needed if we are to have any chance of restoring passenger confidence,” Reynaert said.

Greater EU-wide coordination should be made a “political priority”, Air France-KLM chief and A4E chairman Benjamin Smith said.

“Uncoordinated national measures over the last six months have had a devastating impact on freedom of movement.”

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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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