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Swiss government under fire for failing to close coronavirus travel loopholes

While travel to and from Switzerland has slowly started up again subject to certain protections, airline companies and the federal government have come under fire for failing to adhere to the underlying rules.

Swiss government under fire for failing to close coronavirus travel loopholes
A sign says 'no entry' at an airport. Photo: JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

As reported by several Swiss media sources on Wednesday, travellers’ negative coronavirus tests were not checked, while others had made use of a loophole which allows them to fly to Switzerland without a negative test if it was too difficult to get tested. 

Currently, Swiss travellers are required to show a negative test to airlines to airline staff when boarding a flight to Switzerland, as well as when they land. 

People arriving in several Swiss airports told the NZZ newspaper and Swiss tabloid Blick that they had not had their tests checked either when boarding or upon landing – or in some cases both. 

While tests are checked upon landing only on a random basis, all those boarding flights to Switzerland are required to have their tests checked by airline staff. 

According to Blick, travellers on Swiss airlines and Edelweiss said they did not have their tests checked by airline staff despite having them at the ready. 

A spokesperson for the airlines told Swiss media that this was not policy and represented “isolated cases”. 

According to Blick, there were “dozens of cases” of people flying into the country unchecked. 

Swiss government has not closed the ‘no test’ loophole

Another problem identified in Swiss media is the so-called ‘no test’ loophole. 

Pursuant to this loophole, anyone arriving in Switzerland via plane is able to avoid having to show evidence of a negative test if they declare it was too difficult to do so. 

The Federal Office of Public Health website has a form for travellers to fill out if they were unable to get tested “within a useful period of time or with reasonable effort”. 

However, passengers do not need to prove this, with Swiss media reporting on a number of cases of arrivals filling out this form if they simply did not want to get tested. 

As the NZZ writes: 

“Word has got around among clever guys that you can save yourself the expensive PCR tests before returning home. The probability of being checked in Switzerland is low. And if it happens anyway, there is no fine if you have completed the self-declaration – you simply have to do a cheap quick test at your place of residence.”

There are no consequences for filling out this form dishonestly. 

Moreover, while anyone who fills in the form must promise to get tested “as soon as possible” upon returning to Switzerland, there are no controls in place in case the person does not get tested. 

Several travellers told Blick they felt the system rewarded people who were dishonest, with those trying to stick to the rules were punished. 

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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?