EXPLAINED: What are the rules for February holidays in Switzerland?

Going on a holiday in February? This is what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What are the rules for February holidays in Switzerland?
Measures are in place in ski resorts to avoid overcrowding. Photo by AFP

As winter vacation is starting in some Swiss cantons and will continue in others until the end of the month, new regulations are in place for those heading to the mountains.

Skiing holidays in February are a longstanding family tradition in Switzerland. Cars with skis on the roof are heading towards Alpine resorts all across the country.

This year, however, the holidays are regulated by various rules and restrictions that resorts and ski areas are implementing to rein in the spread of coronavirus and its various mutations.

The five-person rule in rented accommodation

Since mid-January only a maximum of five people, including children, have been allowed to meet in private. 

If you have a large family, or want to rent a flat together with friends, you will not be allowed to do so by the landlord.

If you reserved the place before the five-person rule went into effect, you can try to get a refund. If that is not feasible for contractual reasons, then your travel insurance may refund the cost of cancellation, but check the conditions first.

What if you don’t obey the rule and accommodate more than five people in the apartment? There is a chance you will get away with it, as resort officials rely on personal responsibility rather than on door-to-door controls.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that anyone should break the rules. The more people crammed in an apartment, the more risk there is of spreading the virus and creating a cluster of infection.

What if you stay in a hotel?

Hotels too must follow the five-person rule. This means no more than five people per room, even in the so-called ‘family rooms’, which can accommodate larger groups. 

Also, mask requirements are in place in all the common areas of the hotel, such as the lobby and the restaurant, when not seated.

While restaurants on ski slopes are closed, hotels are allowed to have dining facilities, but only for their guests, not for public at large.

What are the requirements on ski pistes?

As many people are expected to hit the slopes during the holidays, strict rules are in place.

The goal is to avoid crowds of people waiting in front of ski lifts, increasing the risk of spreading the virus.

At the end of November, the Swiss Ski Lift Association created a set of rules that must be followed in all resorts open to skiers.

These measures include regulating queuing in such a way that it “runs in an orderly manner and without major clusters”.

Additionally, skiers must wear masks not only in closed spaces such as mountain trains and cable cars, but also on open-air chair lifts and T-bars, as well as in queues.

There will be lots of checks to make sure these rules are followed, especially since there had been numerous reports in January of skiers in various Swiss resorts causing health concerns by swarming around the lifts. 

The line of those waiting to get on the ski lift extended over 250 metres, and distances were difficult to respect.

READ MORE: Large crowds on Swiss ski slopes spark concern over coronavirus spread 

What are some ski resorts doing to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the holidays?

Villars, a popular resort in Vaud, has launched a mass testing facility to detect positive cases. 

Anyone over the age of 12 can get tested for free. 

Two other Vaud resorts, Leysin and Les Diablerets are launching similar schemes. And mass testing is also underway in Wengen, a resort in canton Bern, as well as in Graubünden.

Are foreign tourists allowed to ski in Switzerland?

People from abroad can come to Switzerland, but stricter entry requirements are in force since February 8th.

These are the new rules:

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.

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.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland's new travel and quarantine rules?

Anyone over the age of 12 arriving by air must present a negative PCR test, which is not older than 72 hours, before departure. You will not allowed to board the plane without it, regardless of which country you are arriving from.

A negative PCR test 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. 

The quarantine requirement is in place for people, including children, arriving from high risk regions. This means you should not come to Switzerland for the purpose of skiing, as the quarantine will cut your holidays by 10 or seven days.


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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”