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SWISS TOURISM

UPDATE: When will Switzerland relax restrictions on international travel?

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.

UPDATE: When will Switzerland relax restrictions on international travel?
Tourism to Switzerland may be allowed soon. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

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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NEWSLETTER

Reader question: What proof of vaccination will Switzerland require for Americans and Brits to enter?

Starting on June 28th, vaccinated travellers from third countries, including Americans, will be allowed to come to Switzerland without having to show a negative Covid test or quarantine upon arrival.

Reader question: What proof of vaccination will Switzerland require for Americans and Brits to enter?
Vaccination in a foreign country can be proven with an official certificate. Photo: JAIME REINA / AFP

“In view of the positive developments in the epidemiological situation and the progress made in the field of vaccination, the Federal Council is proposing to greatly relax the prescriptions and health measures at the border for people entering Switzerland”, authorities announced on June 11th.

They specified, however, that final decision on this move will be made on June 23rd.

READ MORE: Switzerland set to reopen its borders to vaccinated Americans

However, if the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths will remain the same as now — or, better yet, drop further — vaccinated tourists from outside the Schengen zone will be able to come to Switzerland before the end of June.

What proof of vaccination will those travellers have to show to enter the country?

Basically, the requirements for residents of third nations are the same as for people coming from the EU/EFLA states.

The proof showing you have been fully vaccinated should be an official document issued by a recognised health authority in your country of residence.

The document, which can be either on your smart phone or in paper form, must have your name and date of birth, dates when both doses were administered (or a single dose in case of a Johnson & Johnson vaccine), as well as the name and batch number of the vaccine.

READ MORE: Reader question: How do I prove in Switzerland that I’ve been vaccinated abroad?

Another important requirement is that the vaccine you received is authorised for use in the European Union and, therefore, in Switzerland.

So far, the European Medicines Agency has approved vaccines from Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.

In addition to these two, Switzerland will also accept the Chinese vaccines Sinopharm and Sinovac for entry. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the travel should take place at least 14 days after the second dose, which is when immunity to coronavirus is believed to fully kick in.

The same rules apply to people coming from the so-called “high-variant” countries (VOC) which at the moment include Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, Nepal, and the UK.

They can enter Switzerland if fully vaccinated with proper proof.

Otherwise, they must present a negative PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 days before arriving in Switzerland.

They will then have to quarantine for 10 or seven days.

However, Russia’s Sputnik V, as well as China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines have not received European or Swiss approval to date.

Does this mean travellers from Russia, China, and other countries that don’t use EU-approved vaccines can’t come to Switzerland?

They can still come, but will be required to present a negative PCR or antigen test taken no more than 72 hours before arriving in Switzerland.

They will then have to quarantine for 10 or seven days.

This rule pertains not only to foreign visitors, but also to Swiss citizens and permanent residents returning from abroad.

Will the Covid certificate be sufficient proof?

If it is internationally recognized, which means valid in the EU and Switzerland, then yes.

Switzerland’s certificate will be ready by July 1st. However, not all countries may have these immunity passports ready for use before you travel abroad.

If this is the case, then a proper vaccine document, as mentioned above, will suffice.

READ MORE: How to get Switzerland’s Covid-19 health pass

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