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UPDATE: When will Switzerland relax restrictions on international travel?

UPDATE: When will Switzerland relax restrictions on international travel?
Tourism to Switzerland may be allowed soon. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
Making sense of ever-changing rules about who can enter Switzerland, and when, is not easy. This is what we know — and don’t know — right now about travel regulations.

Let’s say you have family or friends abroad who want to visit you in Switzerland. Can they?

It all depends on where they are coming from.

There are no entry restrictions for people arriving from Schengen and EU countries or from the small European states like Andorra, the Vatican, Monaco and San Marino, as well as from certain third countries listed here.

These are the so-called “safe countries”, with low enough infection rates to allow non-essential travel.

All the nations and regions not on this list are considered “high-risk” and there is a travel ban in place from those areas. The ban doesn’t extend to Swiss citizens and permanent residents returning to Switzerland. 

However, these rules apply only to people who arrive directly from safe locations.

If you are coming from a high-risk country, say the United States, and transit through Germany, you are still not allowed to enter. In other words, what counts is the origin of your flight, not transit points.

Keep in mind that what is relevant here is where you are coming from, not your nationality. For instance, Americans who live in Germany will be allowed to enter Switzerland – but those coming all the way from the US will not. 

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

Great, does that mean everyone in the Schengen zone and a few additional countries can easily enter?

Not exactly. There are still some restrictions in place, even for tourists from “safe” areas: the quarantine.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) periodically places nations with a high virus incidence on its quarantine list. In this case, even if you come from a EU / Schengen state, you will have to quarantine for 10 or seven days if that region is on FOPH’s list.

FOPH updates it roughly every two weeks, so some regions may be off the list, and others on it, depending on the time of travel.

An updated version of the list can be seen at the following link. 

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

Some people are exempted from the quarantine, however.

They are people travelling on business for an important reason that cannot be postponed, people travelling for an important medical reason that cannot be postponed, transit passengers who have spent less than 24 hours in a state or area with an increased risk of infection, and those who transport passengers or goods across borders, like lorry and bus drivers.

This the way things stand now. What about summer?

There has been a lot of talk lately about life getting back to normal (or as close to normal as possible), including travel, for summer holidays.

Vaccinations should make it possible, officials say.

In fact, the EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen recently said that the European Union should open its external borders to vaccinated travellers from non-EU countries.

“Growing evidence that vaccination helps to break transmission chains supports the argument to reopen borders to tourists from non-EU countries”, the Commission said.

“The Commission proposes to allow entry to the EU for non-essential reasons not only for all persons coming from countries with a good epidemiological situation but also all people who have received the last recommended dose of an EU-authorised vaccine,” she said.

The EU also plans to allow in holidaymakers  – even those who are not vaccinated – from countries with low infection rates such as the UK.

READ MORE: EU plans to open borders to vaccinated tourists from outside bloc

Will Switzerland follow this rule?

Switzerland doesn’t belong to the EU, but it has adhered to the bloc’s travel rules, especially as it is part of the Schengen area.

So far, Swiss authorities have not said whether they will adopt the same approach.

But the Federal Council has been hinting, in more general terms, that “further relaxations can be considered… if the epidemiological situation allows”.

“Strict travel restrictions are still in place worldwide. As soon as travel restrictions are relaxed, hopefully this summer, European tourists from the nearby countries will return to Switzerland”, Véronique Kanel, spokesperson for Switzerland Tourism, told The Local.  

What about visitors from farther away?

“Precise forecasts are almost impossible”, Kanel said.

She added, however, that some tourists from overseas, including Americans, may be able to enter “during the summer at the earliest”.

“The progress of national vaccination campaigns will have a major influence on the return of foreign guests to Switzerland. The sooner a large proportion of the population is vaccinated the sooner tourism can resume”, Kanel noted. 

The game-changer, as far as travel is concerned, will likely be a digital coronavirus immunity card, also known as the vaccine certificate or vaccine passport, which both the EU and Switzerland plan to introduce by summer.

READ MORE: Switzerland promises Covid-19 passport ‘by the summer’

This card will entitle holders to a number of privileges, including freedom to travel.

When will we know more about travel prospects?

The Federal Council will make some announcements related to loosening of current restrictions on May 12th. However, it is not certain whether this announcement will also cover travel.

What is required of travellers coming to Switzerland right now?

Everyone over the age of 12 must present a negative Covid test result taken no more than 72 hours before entering Switzerland. This can be either a PCR or antigen test.

Travellers must also fill in the electronic passenger locator form.

And those coming from high-risk areas will have to quarantine.


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