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Switzerland-United States travel: The crucial document you might not know about

If you are planning to fly to the US from one of the Swiss airports, there are some entry regulations you need to know about.

Switzerland-United States travel: The crucial document you might not know about
Inform yourself of all the entry requirements to the United States. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Generally speaking, travel to the United States from Switzerland, Europe, and much of the world has been restricted since March 2020.

However, a number of people still fly to the United States, as they fall under the ‘exemptions’ category which includes American citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPR) of the United States, children or spouses of US citizens or LPRs, as well as foreign government officials and their immediate family members on official business.

At the moment, everyone travelling to the United States must present —aside from the US passport or another document proving eligibility to enter the country — a negative PCR or antigen Covid test. That’s pretty standard for a lot of countries.

But there is one other document you need that you may not know about.

Called ‘PASSENGER DISCLOSURE AND ATTESTATION TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”, this document must be printed and signed, as without it you will not be allowed to board.

Basically, this form requires airlines to “confirm either a negative COVID-19 test result or recovery from COVID-19 and clearance to travel and collect a passenger attestation on behalf of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)”.

The problem is that this particular form, though essential, is easy to miss.

It is ‘buried’ among other travel-related information airlines send to passengers as part of an email that comprises booking details, baggage allowance, mask requirement, and time zone and weather at the destination.

Only the most attentive passenger will notice a link called “Stricter regulations on entering the USA”, which compiles various rules, including the form.

The Local asked SWISS airline why the necessity to fill out this form is not made clearer to US-bound passengers.

“In principle, it is the passenger’s responsibility to inform themselves about the entry requirements of their final destination”, said spokesperson Michael Stief.

He added that “SWISS provides its passengers with detailed information on its homepage and also informs them individually about the formalities before departure”.

The entry regulations are indeed included on the airline’s site, as well as on the site of its codeshare partner, Lufthansa, which operates some of the US-bound flights together with SWISS.

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

However, a passenger has to actively search for this information amid diverse links on the airlines’ websites.

Many miss it and only find out about it when checking in at the airport.

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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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