Covid-19: What kind of Christmas can we expect in Switzerland this year?

With holidays only weeks away, many in Switzerland are wondering whether traditional family celebrations will be possible this year. What do the experts say?

Covid-19: What kind of Christmas can we expect in Switzerland this year?
Traditional celebrations may not be possible this year, experts say. Photo by AFP

“I don’t know if we will be able to save Christmas”, Health Minister Alain Berset told Le Matin Dimanche newspaper on November 1st.

“We have to live with this uncertainty”, he added.

However, this statement was made just after the government implemented a slew of restrictions in an effort to curb the alarming increase in the number of coronavirus infections.

Since then, the epidemiological situation in Switzerland has been slowly improving, though the number of hospitalisations remains high.

Have health experts revised their predictions concerning Christmas?

The answer to this question ranges from guarded to cautiously optimistic.

According to Virginie Masserey, head of the Infection Control Section of the Federal Office of Public Health, “the situation is still very delicate and we can absolutely not make predictions on when the wave will pass”.

Antoine Flahault, the director of the Institute for Global Health at the University of Geneva, said that even though the health situation is stabilising at the moment, there is a risk of resurgence if holidays are celebrated in the usual manner.

“We will therefore have to be very careful”, he warned.

“We won’t be able to have the kind of large family gatherings that we are used to, but get-togethers in small groups will probably be possible” said Didier Pittet , the head of the infection prevention and control service at Geneva University Hospitals (HUG).

However, Geneva’s Health Minister Mauro Poggia is more optimistic about Christmas.

Although the canton remains Switzerland’s coronavirus hotspot, “we hope that the efforts we are making now will allow us to reap the benefits at the end of the year and that we can ease the measures so that family reunions can still take place”.

READ MORE: Geneva to relax some coronavirus restrictions 


Will international travel be possible?

Many foreign citizens typically spend their holidays with families and friends in their native countries. Whether or not this will be possible this year depends on a number of factors.

Among them are the epidemiological situation in a given country and whether there is a quarantine requirement when returning to Switzerland.

Right now, travellers from Andorra, Luxembourg, Montenegro, the Czech Republic, as well as Austrian states of Upper Austria and Salzburg must quarantine for 10 days when arriving in Switzerland, although requirements could change on short notice, as the government updates its list of risk areas from time to time. 

Also, each country could change its entry regulations, depending on its rate of infections at a given time, not to mention the fact other countries may well be in lockdown, such as the UK.

You can check the latest regulations here.

What about skiing?

For many people, Christmas holidays are the traditional time to hit the slopes. Will it be possible this year?

Again, it depends in your destination country, But Swiss resorts are bending backwards, so to speak, to welcome skiers and ensure their safety.

The Swiss Ski Lift Association tightened measures against the virus, making it mandatory to wear a facemask not only in closed cable car cabins, but also on open-air chair lifts and in queues.

“The cable car windows are open all day long. Ventilation, masks, hand gel, distancing,” said Laurent Vaucher, the chief executive of Televerbier, the top ski lift firm in French-speaking parts of Switzerland. 



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Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

More than two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel to Switzerland is set to return to normal from May 2nd.

Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

Despite winding back all Covid measures domestically on April 1st, Switzerland still required visitors from non-European countries to be vaccinated against Covid. 

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration said on Twitter late in late April that all remaining entry rules would be scrapped from Monday, May 2nd. 

What were the rules? 

Up until May 2nd, visitors from the EU/EFTA zone can enter Switzerland without needing to show a vaccination or a test. Those from outside the bloc however need to show either proof of vaccination or recovery, or fit into other exception categories, including being under 18. 

This created a somewhat contradictory situation where Switzerland has some of the most relaxed rules in Europe domestically, but a stricter entry framework than many of its neighbours. 

‘Travelcheck’: This tool shows you what you need to enter Switzerland

As a consequence, Swiss tourism authorities warned that travellers from outside Europe, particularly those from the United States, China, India and the United Kingdom, are taking their tourist dollars elsewhere. 

The Swiss Tourism Association STV submitted a formal request in March that the laws be changed, saying they had put Switzerland at a disadvantage. 

How do I know which rules apply?

One of the most important elements to consider with regard to Covid entry rules is that the country where you reside rather than your nationality is the most important aspect. 

Therefore, if you are an American living in France under the current rules, you can enter without showing proof of vaccination, as you are considered to be entering from France. 

With rules constantly changing and official sources sometimes slow to keep up, the best way to determine the rules which apply in your specific case is the Swiss government’s ‘Travelcheck’ website. 

This is available here. 

The site will ask you certain questions about your situation, although no personal details are required. 

You will then receive a tailored response with advice on your entry situation. 

An extensive set of FAQs is available on the Swiss government website here