TRAVEL: Switzerland suspends flights with UK over new Covid strain

Switzerland has barred travel from the UK in a bid to block a new strain of coronavirus that has swept across southern England.

TRAVEL: Switzerland suspends flights with UK over new Covid strain
Flights with the UK have been suspended. Photo by AFP

The Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) suspended air links between Switzerland and the UK from midnight Sunday.

South Africa is also included in the ban, as the new virus variant is spreading through that country as well.

“The new strain is significantly more contagious than the known kind,” FOCA said in a press release on Sunday. 

Other countries, including Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, have also restricted all travel with the UK, with more nations expected to join the ban.

READ MORE: Travel chaos in Europe –  Which countries have suspended links with UK?

The new strain is believed to have first appeared in the London and Kent areas of the UK in September, and is reported to be up to 70 percent more contagious than other strains. But based on what scientists know so far, the variant does not appear to cause more serious illness than other kinds of coronavirus. 

It has not yet been detected in Switzerland, according to authorities.

However, this doesn’t mean it is not yet on Swiss territory. More than 60 flights from the UK — bringing an estimated 10,000 tourists —landed at the Geneva airport this weekend before the ban was introduced, RTS public broadcaster reported. 

READ MORE: Covid-19: Where are you most likely to catch the virus in Switzerland? 

Blaise Genton, chief medical officer of the tropical diseases department at University Centre of General Medicine and Public Health (Unisanté) in Lausanne said the new strain “is worrying”. 

“The coronavirus has fortunately mutated little since the start of the pandemic. What is very important to know is whether this mutation leads to more severe ailments or to more deaths, which we don’t yet know.” 

The question now is whether the variant will respond well to the vaccine which will be introduced in Switzerland within days.

“Currently, there is nothing to suggest that the mutations that occur will resist the effectiveness of the vaccine”, Claire-Anne Siegrist, head of the vaccine unit at Geneva’s university hospitals (HUG) said in an interview. 

“It is more like the case of measles, where there are thousands of different strains but the vaccine remains effective”, she added.

READ MORE: Travel in Switzerland: Geneva airport launches more Christmas flights 



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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?