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Switzerland to lift Covid testing and quarantine requirements for some travellers

Just as summer holidays are around the corner, travellers coming or returning to Switzerland from abroad will face fewer restrictions.

Switzerland to lift Covid testing and quarantine requirements for some travellers
No more testing or quarantine requirements for some travellers. Photo: Zurich Airport

With ever-changing rules regarding international travel, figuring out what measures are in place for entering Switzerland has been a major headache.

Not only are visitors from high-risk countries required to quarantine on arrival, but they have had to fulfil other conditions as well, such as filling out an online form and presenting a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of travel.

But starting on Monday, May 31st, things will get much easier – at least for some people.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What Covid measures will Switzerland relax from Monday?

Among the measures being eased by the government from Monday is the quarantine and testing requirement for vaccinated and immune travellers.

“People who have recovered from Covid are exempt from contact and travel quarantine for a period of six months,” the Federal Council announced at a press conference on Wednesday.

“Given that people who have been vaccinated cannot transmit the virus to a relevant extent, they too are now exempt from contact and travel quarantine for a period of six months, as well as from the requirement to be tested and provide contact details on arrival in Switzerland,” authorities added.

The six-month time frame for both vaccinations and recovery from coronavirus is a condition because it is currently believed that this is how long immunity to Covid lasts, though some research suggests it might be longer.

Another condition for the waiving of the quarantine and testing requirement is that travellers “have been fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved in Switzerland or by the European Medicines Agency (EMA)”.

“Fully vaccinated” means they received both doses of either Moderna, Pfizer BioNTech or AstraZeneca or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

AstraZeneca is not used in Switzerland, but is approved by the EMA. Other vaccines available in some markets, such as Sputnik V and Sinovac, are excluded.

Also, authorities specified that “people under the age of 16 are also exempt from travel quarantine and the requirement to be tested on arrival in Switzerland”.

However, the exemption from travel quarantine and testing doesn’t extend to people arriving from countries with virus variants “of significant concern” – even if they have been vaccinated or recovered from Covid.

Daniel Dauwalder, a spokesperson for the Federal Department of Public Health (FOPH), told The Local that the ruling currently pertains to travellers from Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa and Nepal.

However, FOPH’s list of high-risk areas is updated at least every 14 days, so some countries may be removed from it while others are added.

READ MORE: When can residents of Switzerland travel abroad again?

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Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Switzerland will shorten the obligatory quarantine for anyone testing positive for Covid to five days, while extending the current measures until at least March. The duration of immunity for the Covid certificate will also be shortened.

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland on Wednesday announced a range of changes to the existing Covid measures. 

As had been widely reported ahead of the announcement, the Covid quarantine period for positive cases was shortened from the current ten days to five for vaccinated and recovered people. 

People can leave quarantine after five days, provided they are symptom free for 48 hours. Based on the new advice, it does not appear a person needs to test negative – although the government has been contacted for a confirmation on this question. 

EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid quarantine rules?

The quarantine change applies both to people who have tested positive and those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. 

“Close contact” will also be redefined. Now it will not include everyone someone with Covid has had contact with, but will be limited to the people they live with and people who had “regular and close” contact with a person who tested positive. 

The close contact quarantine will not apply to people who have had a booster in the past four months, but it will apply to those who have had two doses.

The unvaccinated will need to remain in quarantine for the original ten days. 

Cantons can decide to grant exemption to the quarantine rules. 

The duration of immunity under the rules of Switzerland’s Covid certificate will be reduced from one year to 270 days, i.e. nine months.

This is due to the belief that immunity due either to vaccination or recovery declines earlier than previously thought. 

The 270-day requirement applies to those who are fully vaccinated or to people who have previously had the virus.

This shortening of the time period for the validity of the Covid certificate will apply from February 1st, as with the EU’s rules for international travel. 

The current Covid measures, which are outlined in the link below, will also be extended. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

While they were set to expire on January 24th, they will now be extended until March 31st. 

The government said the extension was necessary due to the situation in the country’s hospitals. 

Amid skyrocketing infection rates, the Swiss government said it had prepared additional measures which could be implemented quickly and immediately if the situation required it. 

“Should the situation in hospitals deteriorate significantly, the Federal Council can still act swiftly by imposing stricter measures such as the closure of facilities and institutions or by limiting capacity at large-scale events, regardless of the consultation,” the government said in a press release

The government is currently in consultation with experts and the cantons about these and further measures, including tighter mask rules and a change in testing rules.

This consultation will last until the 17th of January, however those listed here are expected to apply. 

For the full list of changes announced you can visit the government site HERE.