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EXPLAINED: Can people from the United States and Great Britain come to Switzerland?

Swiss authorities have removed the United States and Great Britain from its mandatory quarantine list with immediate effect. But does this mean travellers from these countries will be able to visit without restrictions?

EXPLAINED: Can people from the United States and Great Britain come to Switzerland?
Tourists from Britain and the US are still not allowed in Switzerland. Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP

The decision, announced on Wednesday March 24th, was made because infection rates in both countries are dropping, thanks in part to both countries’ strong vaccination programmes. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to remove United States and United Kingdom from quarantine list

Paradoxically however, the lifting of a quarantine requirement doesn’t mean that residents of these two nations can come to Switzerland.

In effect, while those who are allowed to enter from these two countries will not be forced to quarantine due to the change, there is still a ban on entry for most travellers from the US and the UK. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What are the rules for entering Switzerland? 

To understand who can enter Switzerland, it is important to see the distinction between the quarantine requirement and the rules regarding entry as these are separate. 

The quarantine requirement is put in place on a list of countries which is updated regularly by the Swiss government. Anyone entering from these countries must quarantine, regardless of residency status or citizenship. 

However, there is also a list of countries from which people may travel to Switzerland. Those not on that list are known as “risk countries”. 

Currently, all countries in the Schengen zone and a short list of “exceptions” are on the list. 

Neither the UK or the US are on the list of exceptions and are therefore considered “risk countries”. 

This means normal (i.e. tourist) travel is not as yet permissible from the US and the UK. 

As of March 25th, the list of countries from where travel to Switzerland is permitted is as follows: all Schengen countries plus Andorra, Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Ireland, South Korea, Monaco, New Zealand, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Singapore, Thailand and Cyprus. 

Please click here for official Swiss government information. 

United Kingdom

Travellers from the UK have been banned from entering Switzerland since December 21st, due to the new virus strains originating in that country. 

The website of the UK Embassy in Switzerland states that “due to COVID-19 restrictions, UK nationals and other non-Swiss / EU / EFTA citizens arriving from the UK or a ‘high risk country’ are not permitted entry to Switzerland”.

United States

As is the case with the UK, residents of the United States can’t travel to Switzerland either.

But unlike their British counterparts, Americans have been banned from entry for over a year.

The United States was designated a “risk country” when the pandemic first broke out in March 2020 and remains on that list. 

Are there any exceptions to the ban?

While tourist travel is not permitted, travellers from the United States and the United Kingdom are allowed to enter in some circumstances. 

They include people with Swiss citizenship, permanent residents or valid visa holders returning to Switzerland, as well as transit passengers who connect to other flights at one of Switzerland’s airports.

If you fall under one of the above categories, you will be able to come to Switzerland and will not be required to quarantine.

Unfortunately for people wanting to holiday in Switzerland, this does not include tourists. 

What entry rules apply?

Before you board your flight, you have to fill out an online registration form.

This step is necessary because it will “enable the federal and cantonal authorities to trace infections”, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

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

“It could be that someone close to you while you are travelling is infected. This person will not receive a positive test result until after travel, but they can infect other people during the journey. Filling out your contact details on the entry form enables infections of this sort to be traced and fellow travellers who are at risk to be warned. This approach enables chains of infection to be broken”, FOPH says.

Aside from the tracing form, each traveller must also have a negative Covid test, no older than 72 hours, which must be shown at boarding and later on arrival in Switzerland.

All the details about which types of tests are accepted are outlined here.

READ MORE: REACTION: What do the Swiss think about the extended shutdown?

Note: This story previously stated that the United States and the United Kingdom would be removed from the list when Switzerland makes its next update, on April 5th. However, the removal of the two countries came with immediate effect, i.e. from March 25th. 

Member comments

  1. Does the exception for people coming from the U.S. for a business meeting still apply?

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QUARANTINE

Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Switzerland will shorten the obligatory quarantine for anyone testing positive for Covid to five days, while extending the current measures until at least March. The duration of immunity for the Covid certificate will also be shortened.

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland on Wednesday announced a range of changes to the existing Covid measures. 

As had been widely reported ahead of the announcement, the Covid quarantine period for positive cases was shortened from the current ten days to five for vaccinated and recovered people. 

People can leave quarantine after five days, provided they are symptom free for 48 hours. Based on the new advice, it does not appear a person needs to test negative – although the government has been contacted for a confirmation on this question. 

EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid quarantine rules?

The quarantine change applies both to people who have tested positive and those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. 

“Close contact” will also be redefined. Now it will not include everyone someone with Covid has had contact with, but will be limited to the people they live with and people who had “regular and close” contact with a person who tested positive. 

The close contact quarantine will not apply to people who have had a booster in the past four months, but it will apply to those who have had two doses.

The unvaccinated will need to remain in quarantine for the original ten days. 

Cantons can decide to grant exemption to the quarantine rules. 

The duration of immunity under the rules of Switzerland’s Covid certificate will be reduced from one year to 270 days, i.e. nine months.

This is due to the belief that immunity due either to vaccination or recovery declines earlier than previously thought. 

The 270-day requirement applies to those who are fully vaccinated or to people who have previously had the virus.

This shortening of the time period for the validity of the Covid certificate will apply from February 1st, as with the EU’s rules for international travel. 

The current Covid measures, which are outlined in the link below, will also be extended. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

While they were set to expire on January 24th, they will now be extended until March 31st. 

The government said the extension was necessary due to the situation in the country’s hospitals. 

Amid skyrocketing infection rates, the Swiss government said it had prepared additional measures which could be implemented quickly and immediately if the situation required it. 

“Should the situation in hospitals deteriorate significantly, the Federal Council can still act swiftly by imposing stricter measures such as the closure of facilities and institutions or by limiting capacity at large-scale events, regardless of the consultation,” the government said in a press release

The government is currently in consultation with experts and the cantons about these and further measures, including tighter mask rules and a change in testing rules.

This consultation will last until the 17th of January, however those listed here are expected to apply. 

For the full list of changes announced you can visit the government site HERE.

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