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?
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.
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.
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”.
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).
“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.
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.