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

From Saturday, June 26th, Switzerland will again allow people from outside Europe to visit if they have been vaccinated. Here’s what you need to know.

Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know
Who can enter Switzerland right now? Photo: Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

The Swiss government has confirmed that people from outside the Schengen zone, including Americans and Brits, will be allowed to enter Switzerland from June 26th if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

The Local Switzerland spoke to a representative from the Federal Office of Public Health, who confirmed the change. 

Who can enter? 

Prior to June 26th, only people from the Schengen zone were allowed to enter Switzerland. 

As of June 26th, people from countries outside the Schengen zone are allowed to enter (alongside of course people from inside the Schengen zone). 

The government changed the entry rules to focus on what it calls ‘Variant of Concern’ areas (VOC). 

UPDATE: Switzerland confirms vaccinated Americans and Brits can enter from June 26th

What are the rules for entering from a country within the Schengen zone?

People from inside the Schengen zone can largely enter freely and will not have to quarantine.

People entering from inside the Schengen zone who have not been vaccinated within the past 12 months or who have not had the virus and recovered in the past six months will need to take a test if they arrive by plane. 

They will also need to provide contact details. 

There is no testing or contact details requirement for those arriving by land, regardless of vaccination status. For those trying to arrive by sea, they won’t be arriving in Switzerland. 

What about from outside the Schengen zone?

Only people who have been vaccinated within the past 12 months can enter from outside the Schengen zone. 

No quarantine or testing requirements will be imposed on people from countries outside the Schengen zone. 

For advice on how to prove you have been vaccinated, please read below. 

What about entering from a ‘Variant of Concern’ area?

Currently, these areas include Brazil, Canada, India, South Africa, Nepal, and the UK.

People arriving from these areas who have been vaccinated within the past 12 months or recovered from Covid within the past six months — and can prove it — can enter Switzerland without any obligation to test or quarantine.

All others arriving from these areas should show a negative PCR or rapid antigen test result and then go into quarantine, the Federal Council said.

More information is available at the following official government page. 

How do I prove I have been vaccinated?

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.

More information is available at the following link.

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

What about the Delta variant?

While the Swiss government is concerned about the spread of the Delta variant, it is putting faith in the vaccination campaign. 

Switzerland only uses mRNA vaccines – those produced by Moderna and Pfizer/BionTech – which are known to have a high degree of effectiveness against variants. 

This is why entry from countries where the variant is prevalent is allowed, provided the person arriving has been vaccinated. 

This is noted in the official government advice: “the vaccines used in Switzerland are only slightly less effective against the Delta variant and thus still offer a very high level of protection.”

When will the change be put in place? 

The government had previously announced the change would take place on June 28th, but had put it out for consultation with the cantons. 

A spokesperson from the Federal Office of Public Health confirmed to The Local that the decision was made to bring the date forward to midnight on Friday, meaning that the new rules will be in effect on the 26th of June. 

What about the green pass, i.e. Switzerland’s immunity passport? 

The final touches are currently being put on the green pass in negotiations with the EU. 

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

It is expected to be ready on the 1st of July. 

 

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Reader question: When will Switzerland authorise second Covid booster shots?

Even as other countries have started to administer fourth doses of a Covid-19 vaccine and the infections are on the rise again, Swiss health authorities still haven’t rolled out second boosters. This is why, and what lies ahead.

Reader question: When will Switzerland authorise second Covid booster shots?

As The Local reported on Tuesday, coronavirus is circulating again in Switzerland and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

In fact, over a million people in Switzerland could catch the virus this summer.

 “More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

READ MORE: ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) indicates that the upward trend is already underway. The number of new reported cases has been soaring in the past few weeks — from below 10,000 a week in mid-April and beginning of May, to 24,704 new cases in the past seven days.

These are officially registered contaminations, but as “most of infected people will not be tested, the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler pointed out.

Although nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are more contagious but less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

What is FOPH’s official stance on second boosters?

Health authorities are currently recommending them only for people in high-risk categories — that is, those with a very weak immune system.

“There is no need for the general public to receive an additional booster vaccination in the current situation. According to available data, people who are fully vaccinated or vaccinated and cured are still well protected against severe forms of COVID-19”, FOPH said on May 23rd.

There has been no change in strategy since then, despite the increasing infection rates.

However, authorities relented on one point: they now allow fourth doses to be administered to people whose Covid certificates have expired but who plan to travel to countries where up-to-date immunisations are required.

FOPH said these travellers can get “off-label” shots — meaning being vaccinated before the official authorisation to do so is issued — but these doses will not be free of charge.

“The price will be set by the cantons and the vaccination centres”, FOPH said, adding, however, that “second boosters for people with weakened immune systems will remain free”.

Why are Swiss health authorities dragging their feet in authorising second boosters?

As with the original vaccine rollout at the beginning of 2021, which took longer here than elsewhere, Swiss slowness may be due to the abundance of caution. For instance, drugs regulator Swissmedic “took longer than many countries to approve new vaccines”.

This time around, FOPH is taking its time to examine benefits of second boosters for general population (as opposed to at-risk groups).

Part of it may be the uncertainty prevailing over the efficacy of vaccines, which were conceived to combat the original early strains like Delta, not the variants, and sub-variants, that emerged later.

“The current vaccine does not provide clear protection against the Omicron”, according to Giuseppe Pantaleo, head of the immunology unit at Vaud university hospital (CHUV).

So when will Switzerland authorise second boosters?

Health officials said they will issue official recommendations “before the summer holidays”, which means shortly.

Two scenarios are currently  foreseen by FOPH: “It may be that an additional booster vaccination is recommended only for people over 65 and those suffering from certain chronic diseases, but it is also possible that it will be intended for the entire population”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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