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Everything that changes in Switzerland in April 2021

From more tests to updates to the quarantine list, here's what is set to change in Switzerland in April.

Everything that changes in Switzerland in April 2021
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

You can’t spell ‘change’ without CH. Here are some of the big changes to expect this month. 

Relaxation of the coronavirus lockdown (maybe)

In mid-March, Switzerland announced an extension of the existing lockdown measures, other than a slight relaxation on the numbers of the amount of people who can meet in indoor settings. 

When making the announcement, the Swiss government said the measures would remain in effect until at least April 14th, with another decision to be made in the coming weeks. 

New additions to quarantine list

On March 24th, Switzerland updated its mandatory quarantine list

Unusually, while the countries that were removed from the list were removed one day after the announcement, those which were added to the mandatory quarantine list were added from April 5th onwards. 

Along with the US and the UK, the countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Ireland, Qatar, Lithuania and St. Lucia have been removed as of March 25th. 

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

In France, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region has been removed, while in Italy, the Apulia region has been taken off the list.

Arrivals from Greece, Jamaica, Paraguay, Tanzania and Ukraine will need to quarantine from April 5th. 

As the list is constantly updated on the basis of infection numbers and mutations, please click the following link for more information. 

UPDATE: Which countries are currently on Switzerland’s quarantine list?

The Léman Express will expand its service on April 5th.

After months of not running regularly, the regional cross-border railway link will operate, from Easter Monday, six trains per hour and per direction between Geneva and the French town of Annemasse.

Léman Express trains will run four times an hour and will be supported every 30 minutes by RegioExpress convoys, serving the main stations along the line, such as Coppet, Lancy-Pont-Rouge and Eaux-Vives. 

The project of Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) and France’s national train system SNCF, the Léman Express comprises a network of 45 stations and 230 kilometres of track, extending beyond the Geneva into Vaud as well as France.

Covid-19 self-tests will be available from April 7th

Do-it-yourself tests to detect possible coronavirus contamination will be available in Swiss pharmacies from April 7th, Health Minister Alain Berset announced.

Each resident will be entitled to five free of these ‘home tests’ each month, as part of Switzerland’s mass screening scheme.

‘Travel Pass’ to be inaugurated

In April, Switzerland will welcome air passengers with the Travel Pass from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which will be carried out by Air Serbia on the Belgrade-Zurich route.

The goal of this experimental initiative is to allow passengers to fly as safely as possible, despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

The wait for Switzerland’s vaccine passport is set to go on a little longer unfortunately, with officials saying in late March that this will not be available until the summer

More vaccines for Switzerland? 

As at April 1st, Switzerland has administered 16.6 vaccine doses per 100,000 inhabitants. In Uri this is over 20 percent, in Zurich it’s around 13 percent. 

As it stands, only the Moderna and Pfizer/Biontech vaccines are being injected in Switzerland. 

UPDATED: Which Swiss cantons are vaccinating fastest against coronavirus?

Switzerland has purchased 5.3 million doses of AstraZeneca but has not approved it, while the Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been approved but the Swiss government has not agreed to purchase any doses

While there is no guarantee at this stage, this could change in April – allowing the Swiss vaccine roll out to speed up. 

Switzerland has indicated that despite concern surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine, the independent approval authority was still making an assessment as to whether it should be approved – therefore this could happen in April. 

As for Johnson and Johnson, the Swiss government declined to purchase the one-dose jab, saying it would not be ready until after the summer.

However, in late March it emerged that deliveries of the vaccine to the EU would begin in April – giving rise to hopes the government will reverse its decision and purchase AstraZeneca doses. 

Ski season comes to an end

Unlike most of Europe, Switzerland kept its ski slopes open during winter in spite of the pandemic. 

However, winter is doing what the Swiss government did not and closing down the Swiss slopes, with most ski resorts closing at some point in April. 

So if you want to get back out there, you’ve only got a few weeks. Click here to see when each Swiss ski resort closes

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SWISS CITIZENSHIP

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut social assistance for non-Europeans

The Swiss government has unveiled a proposal which would cut social assistance for non-European residents. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut social assistance for non-Europeans

As part of a draft revision of the law on foreigners and integration, the Federal Council is proposing to reduce social assistance paid to nationals of third countries.

“During the first three years following the granting a residence permit, the rate of social assistance should be lower than that applied to the native population”, authorities said.

The rationale of the plan is to “create incentives for better work integration”. 

The proposal has been developed by Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. 

The project was in a consultation phase until May 3rd, after which it will be presented to Swiss parliament.

The cut would save an estimated three million francs per year nationwide. 

What does the proposal say? 

Under the plan, the amount of social assistance will be reduced in the first three years for foreigners in Switzerland, provided they come from outside the EU. 

The social aid paid to non-Europeans is already relatively low, with amounts varying from CHF600 to CHF1,000 depending on the canton. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland wants to cut welfare and boost integration for non-EU citizens

Anyone who has a ‘C’ category residency permit and who receives social assistance will lose it more easily than under the previous scheme. 

The law will also see a more defined set of requirements for integration for temporarily admitted persons. 

In addition, the Federal Statistical Office should regularly report accurate figures of how many foreigners are receiving social assistance. 

In addition, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) must approve the extension of residency permits of individuals who incur “significant” social welfare costs. 

Keller-Sutter will also draw up a uniform set of recommendations for social assistance for foreigners for the cantons. 

What are people saying? 

While the proposal has not yet been finalised, the idea has sparked heavy criticism, while some foreigners are fearful of what it might mean for them should the assistance be lowered. 

A spokesperson for the Social Democrats told Swiss tabloid Blick a cut would be “unworldly and cynical”, while the Greens say such a move would be unconstitutional. 

The proposal sparked criticism from the Swiss Workers’ Welfare Organisation, whose spokesperson, Caroline Morel, pointed out that “in social assistance, the amount of support benefits is calculated according to needs and not the length of stay in Switzerland”.

“We oppose the downgrading of the residence status of foreigners who receive social assistance. We also oppose lower social assistance rates for the first three years, as these are inhumane and hinder professional and social integration.”

“It is clear that these tightening measures will primarily affect vulnerable people such as children, people with special needs, and women”, she added.

The Swiss People’s Party on the other hand have spoken out in favour of the changes, saying it would help curb increases in social assistance contributions. 

 

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