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UPDATED: What are Switzerland’s travel and quarantine rules?

As of Monday, February 8th, new restrictions have been put into place to slow down the spread of coronavirus mutations.

UPDATED: What are Switzerland's travel and quarantine rules?
New entry rules are now in force. Photo by AFP

The number of infections with both the UK and South American variants of Covid-19 are on the rise in Switzerland, prompting authorities to introduce stricter measures for travellers. 

“These rules apply to all people who are permitted to enter Switzerland. That means they also apply if you are Swiss and returning to Switzerland after being abroad”, the Federal Office of Public Health said on its website. 

This is what you should know before travelling:

Fill out the form

Almost everyone who enters Switzerland must fill out the entry form online. Once this is done, you will receive a QR code which you should show at immigration and passport control if asked.

You can find the form here.

Coronavirus quarantine: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland 

Some travellers are exempted from this requirement. They include people entering from France, Germany, Italy and Austria, as long as they are not travelling by air. This includes cross-border workers.

If you arrive from areas considered as ‘high-risk’, you don’t have to fill out the form if you transit Switzerland while transporting people or merchandise to another country. 

Anyone over the age of 12 arriving by air must show a negative Covid test before departure.

You must present a negative PCR test, which is not older than 72 hours, before departure. On February 17th, the government said antigen tests would also be allowed as evidence. 

You will not allowed to board the plane without it, regardless of which country you are arriving from.

A negative PCR test (or antigen test from February 17th) result must also be presented by anyone who has been in a country with an increased risk of infection, even if arriving by bus, train or car.

People under the age of 12 will not have to present a negative test or take a test on entry. 

Must I have a PCR or an antigen test in 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. 

Reader question: Are antigen tests sufficient for entry into 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. 

Quarantine rules

The quarantine requirement is still in place for people, including children, arriving from high risk regions.

However, these travellers now have the possibility to reduce their quarantine from 10 to seven days if they get tested (at their own expense) on the seventh day and the PCR or antigen rapid test comes back negative.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new quarantine rules? 

However, people may not come out of the quarantine unless authorised to do so by their cantonal health authorities.

Until you are released from the quarantine, whether after seven or 10 days, you must remain at home, not go outside, or receive visitors.

These travellers are exempted from the quarantine requirement:

  • People travelling on business for an important reason that cannot be postponed.
  • People travelling for an important medical reason that cannot be postponed.
  • Transit passengers who have spent less than 24 hours in a state or area with an increased risk of infection.
  • Cross-border workers

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. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How does Switzerland’s mass testing scheme work? 

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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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