Could Swiss authorities prevent you from travelling if you refuse the coronavirus vaccine?

A Swiss health expert says that people who forego the Covid-19 vaccine once it becomes available should not be allowed to leave Switzerland. Could this drastic measure be enforced?

Could Swiss authorities prevent you from travelling if you refuse the coronavirus vaccine?
Will only vaccinated people be allowed to travel abroad? Photo by AFP

“Travel abroad by plane, coach or cruises should only be allowed for people who are vaccinated or who can present a current negative test before each trip,” Andreas Widmer, a member of the Association of Experts in Infectious Diseases and Hospital Hygiene said in an interview with Tages-Anzeiger. 

He added that “vaccination is an expression of solidarity with society”.

Widmer’s comment was a response to the results of a recent poll conducted by RTS pubic broadcaster, which found that only 16 percent of those surveyed would be willing to be vaccinated immediately after a vaccine against Covid-19 is approved in Switzerland. 

But could the unvaccinated be actually banned from travelling abroad?

Switzerland’s Epidemics Act authorises the government to make vaccinations compulsory for certain groups of people working in a particular sector, such as healthcare professionals and others whose job brings them in close contact with the public.

However, Swiss law does not allow authorities to force someone to get vaccinated against their will. So unless a new legal requirement is created, it is unlikely that Widmer’s suggestion could be acted upon. 

Unlike the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany, where Covid-19 vaccinations are expected to start already in December, Switzerland is not planning to roll out the vaccine until the spring. 

READ MORE: Why Switzerland might have to wait longer than other countries for a coronavirus 

The delay is due to Switzerland’s lengthy drug approval process by the Swiss Agency for Therapeutic Products (Swissmedic).

The country has some of the world’s highest and strictest standards, particularly in comparison with the United States.

According to an article in Watson media outlet on Tuesday, “in the USA, there are comparatively low hurdles for emergency approval. it must be ensured that a drug or vaccine demonstrably helps more than it does harm. Switzerland is taking a different, less risky path.”

Swissmedic’s spokesperson Lukas Jaggi pointed out that “Swiss medical procedure requires specific data to be obtained about the impact of the vaccine on risk groups before vaccination can begin”.

Once it does, the vaccination will take place in a staggered manner, with people in risk groups immunised first, followed by the elderly. Only then will the vaccine be available for general public.





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What is the fine for not filling out Switzerland’s Covid arrival form?

There is one essential form all travellers to Switzerland must fill out, but many don’t. If caught, border guards will hand out fines.

A 100-franc fine could be imposed on those who don’t fill out the Personal Locator Form
Important paperwork: Switzerland-bound travellers must fill out the PLF form or risk getting fined. Photo by Zurich Airport

With constantly changing travel rules, it is difficult to keep up with all the regulations that need to be followed to enter Switzerland (and all the other countries, for that matter).

Since September 20th, everyone arriving in Switzerland, regardless of their country of origin, mode of transport, or vaccination status, must fill out the electronic Personal Location Form (PLF).

Once filled out and registered online, you will receive a QR code which you will have to show when entering Switzerland.

However, some people may be unaware of the requirement and enter the country without this form.

READ MORE: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland

Checks are done randomly, so many travellers slip in without having filled this form. But if caught, you will have to pay a 100-franc fine.

So far, 200 people had to pay this fine, according to Tamedia media group.

The only people exempted from this rule are transit passengers, long-haul lorry drivers transporting goods across borders,  children under 16, cross-border workers, and residents of border areas.

The PLF requirement is an addition to other travel regulations the Federal Council implemented in September:

Two tests to enter Switzerland are now required for the unvaccinated and unrecovered.

Unvaccinated arrivals and those who have not contracted and recovered from the virus in the past six months must show two negative tests. 

The first proof should be presented when arriving in Switzerland.  Then, four to seven days later, travellers will have to undergo another test, which they must pay for themselves.

Both PCR and antigen results are accepted.

These rules only apply to arrivals from nations not on the Switzerland’s high-risk list. As the United States and United Kingdom are considered high risk, only vaccinated people from those countries can arrive in Switzerland.

This article contains more information on the rules which apply. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new travel and Covid certificate rules?