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Covid-19: What you need to know if you are travelling abroad from Switzerland

Restrictions in place in various countries continue to limit travel options from Switzerland. This is what you should know about current entry requirements for people arriving from Switzerland.

Covid-19: What you need to know if you are travelling abroad from Switzerland
Before taking off, familiarize yourself with travel restrictions. Photo by AFP

Whether you want to spend Christmas in your home country, or are planning holidays abroad, international travel is a challenging undertaking during a pandemic.

Before packing your bags, you should be aware not only of the epidemiological situation at your destination, but also of all the rules, including quarantine, testing requirements on arrival and what the rules are on family gatherings – in the UK only three households can meet over Christmas.

Here’s an overview of where residents of Switzerland can and cannot go, and under what conditions. 

Travel ban

United States and Canada are among the most popular destinations for expats and tourists alike, but North America remains pretty much off limits to residents of Switzerland.

The are exceptions for US and Canadian citizens and permanent residents, but some other travellers are also exempted from the travel ban. However arrivals in Canada will have to be prepared to quarantine for 14 days even if they have no symptoms.

These are the exemptions for USA and Canada.

Remember, too, that in order to return from both countries, you must have either a Swiss or European Union passport, a work permit, or another official proof of residency in Switzerland or the EU. If you don’t, you will not be allowed back into Switzerland, as tourists from the US and Canada are banned.

Travel is permitted

Most European countries, with the exception of Hungary, haven't tightened their restrictions on Swiss residents for weeks. 

But some are not as travel-friendly as others, as they require arrivals to either provide a negative Covid-19 test, or to quarantine upon arrival.

This is where a negative test result is required:

• Bosnia and Herzegovina. The test shouldn’t be older than 48 hours
• Greece (72 hours)
• Malta (72 hours)
• Russia (72 hours)
• Slovakia (72 hours)
• Spain (72 hours)

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

Quarantine/test requirement on arrival:

  • Belgium (10-day quarantine)
  • Cyprus (14 days, plus test at the end of the quarantine)
  • Estonia (14 days)
  • Ireland (14 days)
  • Iceland (14 days)
  • Germany (10 days – can be reduced if test taken after 5 days. There are certain exemptions)
  • Latvia (14 days)
  • Lithuania (10 days or a negative test)
  • The Netherlands (10 days)
  • Norway (10 days)
  • Romania (14-day quarantine, can be ended on the 10th day if a test is negative on the 8th day)
  • Slovenia (14 days)
  • UK (14 days. From December 15th travellers can take a test after 5 days of quarantine. If negative quarantine ends.)
  • Ukraine (14-day quarantine or test upon entry and self-quarantine until a negative result)

Quarantine obligation on return

Before you venture abroad, keep in mind that Switzerland will require you to self-quarantine for 10 days when you return from these countries or regions: 

Austria:

• Land Salzburg
• Land Upper Austria
Czech Republic
Luxemburg
Montenegro

Additionally, there are two important things to remember.

Firstly, all of the above measures are in place right now, but could change at a moment’s notice, based on the worsening or improving health situation in a given region. That is why you should check requirements for your destination right before you travel.

Also, various countries require travellers to register online before arriving, even if no other measures apply.
 

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COVID-19 ALERT

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.

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