The right-wing Swiss People’s Party and the left-wing Greens – along with all other major political parties in Switzerland – have come into agreement on the matter of coronavirus testing at the border.
The parties co-wrote a joint letter to Switzerland’s Federal Council on Sunday calling for mandatory testing at the border, along with stricter quarantine requirements.
The mandatory testing would not just apply to tourists or people coming to stay in Switzerland, but also to cross-border commuters.
In normal times, approximately 350,000 people cross Switzerland’s borders to work daily – although this number is expected to be much lower due to the impact of the pandemic.
The letter, published in Switzerland’s Tages Anzeiger, calls for everyone crossing the border to either present a negative PCR test or to be tested on site, depending on which country they come from.
Even if the test is negative, the letter demands that all arrivals go into a quarantine.
The requirement mirrors that put in place by Austria on December 19th, although it is stricter as that ban does not extend to cross-border commuters.
The letter marks a major milestone, as up until recently only the SVP was the only mainstream Swiss party calling for border closures to stop the spread of the virus.
Criticism in border cantons
While the Federal Council is yet to comment on the letter, communities heavily reliant on cross-border workers such as Basel have been critical.
The Northwestern Switzerland Intergovernmental Conference of the Cantons of Aargau, Basel City, Basel Country and Solothurn wrote a letter to Swiss President Guy Parmelin, pleading with him to ignore the proposal.
“Northwestern Switzerland is a trinational economic and living area,” the letter read.
“Actual border closings and complex border controls, which are hardly feasible in practice, test regimes and quarantine rules are not a solution.”
Opposition in Basel City
The heads of the major parties in the canton of Basel City – many of the same parties which have advocated tighter border measures at a national level – have rejected the proposal.
Basel City has approximately 35,000 cross-border workers – a tenth of Switzerland’s national total – while around 3,500 work in the city’s healthcare sector.
“Such a regime would have devastating consequences for a border region like Basel,” the parties said in a statement.
“The proposal therefore threatens to weaken the region, especially in the fight against the pandemic, to the chagrin of the population.”
Basel MP Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter asked on social media if the plan was feasible.
“If only a third of cross-border commuters continue to commute, that would mean over 200,000 tests per week. Do we have enough tests and staff?”
— Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter (@Elisabeth_S_S) January 24, 2021