EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland's new quarantine rules?
Authorities in Switzerland are implementing new quarantine rules from February 8th due to the number of infections with mutated coronavirus strains. Here’s what you need to know.
Even though there has been a drop in the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths, contaminations with the new virus variant “continue to double each week”, the Federal Council said in a press statement at the end of January.
The mutated variant first detected in the UK and believed to be up to 70 percent more contagious than other variants, represented more than 10 percent of all the contaminations detected in Switzerland at the end of January.
“Our objective remains to achieve a clear and rapid drop in case numbers”, authorities said.
Among the rules that will be implemented from February 8th are those related to quarantine, i.e. self-isolation.
Reduced duration of quarantine
Currently, anyone who has come into contact with an infected person has had to self-quarantine for 10 days.
But from February 8th they will be allowed to leave quarantine after seven days, but only if they have a negative result from a PCR or antigen rapid Covid-19 test, and if authorised to do so by their cantonal health authorities.
“The person must pay for the test themselves and, after leaving the quarantine, must wear a mask and continue to socially distance until the full 10 days of quarantine is over, unless they remain at home”, authorities said.
The price of a PCR test is 168 francs, and a rapid test costs 57.50 francs.
What about the post-travel quarantine?
From February 8th, everyone travelling to Switzerland by air, even from a country that is not considered to be high risk, must show a negative PCR test result that is no more than 72 hours old at the airport check-in before being allowed to board the plane.
Upon arrival, travellers from high-risk areas will then be required to self-quarantine for 10 days, but can leave quarantine after seven days if they test negative again with a PCR or antigen rapid test.
Arrivals from non-high-risk areas will not be required to quarantine.
PCR test results are generally available within 24 to 48 hours, while rapid antigen tests yield a result within 15 to 20 minutes. PCR tests are considered to be more accurate than the antigen ones.
In all these cases, people must pay for the test(s) themselves.
Also on Wednesday, the government said it was prepared to spend more than a billion francs on testing for asymptomatic Covid-19 cases, saying they were probably responsible for most new infections.
What are the quarantine rules if you test positive?
Anyone with symptoms is urged to stay at home and take a Covid-19 test as soon as possible.
You must isolate yourself from the rest of your family, which means staying in a separate room and eating your meals alone. Interaction with other members of your household must be avoided.
You will remain in isolation for 10 days and must not go out.
Swiss authorities say: "In the ideal case, the cantonal office will inform you when you can end your isolation. If you do not receive instructions, your isolation must last at least 10 days."
However if symptoms persist (apart from loss of taste or smell which can last for weeks) then it may be necessary to isolate for longer.
These are the full requirements for people in isolation in Switzerland.
Where can I be tested in Switzerland?
The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has a list of all the cantonal testing places.
These links also provide other Covid-related information for each canton.
What exactly does quarantine entail?
Regardless of whether you’ve been exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus, or if you are entering the country from abroad, you must stay in your home or another suitable accommodation without going out or receiving guests.
That means people in self-quarantine are not allowed out to exercise or buy essential goods like food.
A negative Covid test doesn’t exempt you from having to quarantine, but from February 8th, a negative result after seven days will allow you to end the quarantine.
Non-compliance with the quarantine or isolation requirement could prompt a fine for up to 10,000 francs.
However, some travellers are exempted from the requirement — for example those who are coming to Switzerland for an important work reason that can’t be cancelled or rescheduled, individuals travelling for an important medical reason that can’t be postponed, and transit passengers who have spent less than 24 hours in a country or area with an increased risk of infection.
In all such cases, make sure to contact cantonal health authorities for guidance.
Are there any exceptions to the quarantine requirement?
Yes. Cross-border workers, transit passengers, professional athletes travelling for the purpose of competition, diplomats. health workers and people who come to Switzerland for "important professional reasons” are all exempt from the quarantine and testing requirements.
Travellers from which countries are required to quarantine upon arrival in Switzerland?
This is the current list of countries and regions considered to be “high risk” by Swiss authorities.
As the epidemiological situation around the world is constantly changing, the list is updated every 14 days.
Antigen tests in some cases allowed for entry into Switzerland
Antigen tests will in some cases also satisfy the entry test requirement into Switzerland. Previously, this was only PCR tests.
However, antigen tests - otherwise known as rapid tests - must have been carried out in the past 24 hours, compared with 72 hours for PCR tests.
Please click the following link for more information on antigen and PCR testing when arriving in Switzerland.
Switzerland’s existing coronavirus measures are set to expire on February 28th, meaning that the above mentioned relaxations will come into effect from March 1st.
NOTE: This article was amended on January 28th to make it clear that only arrivals from high-risk countries would be required to quarantine.