Will border workers in Switzerland be subjected to France’s curfew?

By adding two border regions of France to its list of departments affected by curfew restrictions, the French government limits the freedom of movement of those living close to the Swiss border.

Will border workers in Switzerland be subjected to France’s curfew?
More than 125,000 French workers are employed in the Genevas area. Photo by AFP

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced that 38 new departments will be added to the country’s mandatory curfew list on Saturday, bringing the total to 54.

All people living in those areas must not go outside between 9pm and 6am.

Among the newly listed departments are Ain and Haute-Savoie, which are closest to Geneva.

Does this mean that about 125,000 French workers who are employed in and around Geneva will be impacted by the new restriction?

No. Those who don’t have to leave for their Swiss jobs before 6 am, or return to their homes in France after 9 pm, will not be affected.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's quarantine rules

And even more people may be exempted from the rule.

The measure does not apply to those who have to cross the border for professional activities — including training — medical appointments, or important family reasons such as providing childcare of helping sick or vulnerable people.

Cross-border workers, whether from France, Germany, Italy, or Austria, have been given a special status by Swiss authorities — for instance, an exemption from quarantine requirements — as local economies, including healthcare facilities, depend on these people.

“We have no intention of letting entire swathes of our economy to shut down,” Antonio Hodgers, president of the Geneva Council of State told Tribune de Genéve.

Even during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in the spring, when Switzerland closed its borders, authorities adopted a pragmatic approach by allowing cross-border workers to enter the country. 



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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.