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How is Switzerland using Covid certificates compared to elsewhere in Europe?

Countries across Europe are extending the use of so called vaccine passports or health passes to allow for entry into bars, cultural sites or sporting events, but some countries are employing them more than others. Here's how Switzerland compares to other countries.

How is Switzerland using Covid certificates compared to elsewhere in Europe?
Switzerland only requires the Covid certificate in relatively few instances. Photo: Pixabay

Health passes are being increasingly adopted by European countries and limit entry to certain public places to those who
have been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or tested negative.

Here’s a look at how Switzerland is doing it – and how that compares with other countries. 

Switzerland

Switzerland also has a Covid-19 health pass, known domestically as a Covid-19 immunity certificate. 

However, this is only needed at large events (more than 1,000 people), nightclubs or discos as at July 2021. 

Some bars and restaurants can choose to ask for the Covid certificate, upon which they are allowed to dispense with other rules such as mask rules and social distancing requirements. 

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

Stricter rules are being considered, i.e. needing to show the pass at restaurants, however this will only take place if vaccinations do not hit their forecast targets

In mid-July, Switzerland became a part of the EU’s Covid-19 pass framework, meaning that you can show your EU country pass in order to enter Switzerland. 

Switzerland as yet does not accept Covid passes from outside the EU, but this has been flagged as a possibility in future. 

If you arrive in Switzerland, you can show the evidence of your vaccination to the authorities in your Swiss canton and you will be issued a Covid certificate. 

Unfortunately, this only includes Swiss-approved Covid vaccines. According to the Swiss government, this is only Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson, i.e. AstraZeneca is not accepted. 

More information about getting the pass if you are visiting Switzerland is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How do tourists get Switzerland’s Covid certificate to access events, clubs and restaurants?

France

In France the health passport is already in use for venues including cinemas, tourist sites and nightclubs and from the beginning of August will be extended to bars, restaurants, cafés, some shopping malls and long distance train or bus services. Find the full list of venues where it is necessary HERE.

The health passport can show proof of either; fully vaccinated status, recent recovery from Covid or a negative Covid test taken within the previous 48 hours.

It is required for everyone at the listed venues – visitors and staff – but staff have until August 30th to get vaccinated. The passport is required for all over 12s, but children aged between 12 and 17 do not have to start showing their passports until August 30th.

There is no fine for members of the public who do not have a health passport, but you can expect to be barred from any of the listed venues if you cannot show your passport to staff. Venues found not enforcing the health passport face being closed down.

The passport can be shown either on the French TousAntiCovid app – find out how that works here – or on paper. The app is compatible with vaccine certificates issued in EU or Schengen zone countries, and the NHS app is also compatible. The situation for those vaccinated in the USA is a little more complicated, but they should be able to swap their US certificate for a French one that is compatible with the app.

France has some of the strictest Covid passport rules in Europe. Photo by Mat Napo on Unsplash

Italy

Italy’s green pass, ‘certificazione verde’, will soon be required to access more leisure and cultural venues, including indoor restaurants, gyms, swimming pools, museums, cinemas, theatres, sports stadiums and other public venues.

Although it’s been in use since June, the Italian government announced on July 22nd that it would be extending its health pass scheme from August 6th.

From next month, people in Italy wanting to access most venues in Italy will need to show proof of being vaccinated – including those who have only had the first of two doses – having tested negative for coronavirus within the previous 48 hours or having recovered from Covid-19 within the last six months.

At the moment Italy’s digital health certificate is available to people over 12 years old who were vaccinated, tested or recovered in Italy.

The Italian version of the green pass is only for people who were vaccinated, recovered or tested in Italy. If that’s you, find out exactly how to claim it here. If you don’t fall into that category, here’s what you need to know about accessing Italy’s extended green pass.

If you’re from outside the EU, the rules are complicated or still being negotiated. At the border, Italy accepts vaccination certificates, tests results and medical certificates of recovery from the United States, Canada or Japan. However, there is currently no news on how travellers can access the green pass once they’re in Italy.

As for the United Kingdom, Italy does not currently have an agreement to recognise vaccinations performed in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Germany

Germany introduced EU-wide digital vaccine pass certificates earlier this summer and these can be used for travel, or as proof for access to activities that require being fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or testing negatively – such as going to the gym or dining indoors (in some regions). 

Although authorities have stressed that the pass with a QR code does make travel into the country and around the EU easier, it is not compulsory. For events where some kind of immunity or proof of not having Covid is required, people can also show a paper copy of their vaccine certificate, recovery or test. 

Germany has not indicated that it will make the EU pass mandatory for access to certain activities, like is the case in some other European countries. But the country is considering more freedoms for vaccinated people compared to those who are unvaccinated in future. 

To access the German version of the EU digital pass, people have to be fully vaccinated and can get it from most pharmacies, a doctor or the vaccination centre they got their jabs. People can also get it if they’ve recovered from Covid recently and therefore received one shot. People can use the paper certificate with a QR code on it, or scan it into an app. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get your digital Covid vaccine pass in Germany for EU travel

Spain 

Covid ‘health passes’ haven’t been imposed at a national level by the Spanish government, but two regions – Galicia and the Canary Islands – have opted to require proof of vaccination, testing or recovery for people to go inside bars, cafés and restaurants.

In both regions the scheme is only being applied in municipalities with particularly high infection rates, and although it seemed that it would initially only apply to the interior of hospitality establishments, the Canary government has extended the requirement to gyms and cultural events held indoors. 

Other regional governments in Spain such as Valencia’s have shown interest in implementing a ‘health pass’ requirement, but this has been met with opposition from the hospitality industry for the economic losses and holdups all the checking could potentially cause. 

The EU-approved Digital Covid Certificate issued mainly for the purpose of travel by Spain’s regions is the preferred means of proving Covid health status, although in practice bar and restaurant owners can accept other proof, paper or digital.

Neither the Galician nor the Canary government have announced what foreign tourists should show to access the interior of bars and restaurants in their territories. 

Spain’s Digital Covid Certificate is only available to residents in the country but as the system is standardised across the EU, European tourists will likely be able to use their country’s Covid Certificates with a scannable QR Code to go inside hospitality establishments (not needed for terraces).

READ MORE:

Sweden

Sweden is part of the EU-wide vaccine pass scheme which means the Covid-19 pass can be used as an alternative to showing a negative test result in order to enter the country.

But aside from travel into the country, the pass is not used at all for access to things like events, museums, restaurants or bars. The government hasn’t ruled it out entirely, but has said the Swedish preference is to open up for everyone at the same time instead.

To access the Swedish version of the EU vaccine pass, you need to have either had both doses of your Covid-19 vaccine in Sweden, or at least the second dose, so it is not currently possible for people vaccinated elsewhere to receive it. Another group excluded from the pass is those without a Swedish personnummer or social security number; although the eHealth Agency has told The Local they are working on making it available to the thousands of people in Sweden who were vaccinated without this number, this is not expected to happen until September at the earliest.

Denmark

Denmark controls access to certain activities and facilities – from indoor dining to cultural attractions like museums and sports games – using the scannable coronapas application, which tracks vaccination status, recent recoveries and test results.

The system is currently only available to Danish residents enrolled in the public health system, but it’s compatible with the vaccine certificates from other EU and Schengen area countries. People from outside the EU/Schengen area who received full courses of Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca can also use proof of vaccination in place of a coronapas. That documentation needs to meet a handful of requirements to be legally valid: the documentation must be in English or German and contain your name, date of birth, the vaccine you received and the dates for your first and second doses. 

The coronapas scheme is set to twilight on October 1st, when Denmark is scheduled to fully reopen. 

Norway

Norway’s domestic Covid pass is used to access large events such as concerts, festivals and football matches in addition to domestic cruises and tours. 

To enter venues and events using the pass, you will need a valid certificate. 

Certificates will be valid if three weeks have passed since your last jab, you are fully vaccinated, have had covid in the past six months and can prove so via the health pass, or have received a negative test result in the previous 24 hours. 

The certificate is presented as a QR code and will scan green if valid and red if not. 

It’s worth noting that a valid domestic covid certificate is not valid for travel as part of the EU’s health pass travel scheme. You can read more about how the Norwegian Covid certificate is used for travel here

A paper version of the certificate can be ordered here

Covid certificates in Norway require a national identification number and level four security electronic ID. Unfortunately, this means that it’s practically impossible for tourists and non-residents to access the Norwegian certificate and attend events that require a health pass. 

Furthermore, as the Norwegian certificate’s domestic version is different from the version used for travel, it also means that EU health passes can’t be used as a substitute for domestic vaccine passports. 

Austria

Austria was one of the first European countries to introduce a Covid-19 health pass system, having done so on May 19th as the 3G Rule. 

The 3G Rule refers to ‘Getestet, Geimpft, Genesen’ (Tested, Vaccinated, Recovered) and describes the three ways someone can provide evidence they are immune to the virus.

As a result, the framework is relatively well established in Austria. 

Austria’s Covid-19 health pass, known as the “green pass”, is needed to access bars, restaurants, hotels, hairdressers, gyms, events and a range of other venues. 

For entering nightclubs, you need to be either vaccinated or have received a negative PCR test in the past 72 hours. This information will also be included in your green pass. 

As of July 1st, masks are not required anywhere that the green pass is required.

In effect, this means masks are required in public transport, supermarkets and museums. 

EXPLAINED: What is Austria’s Covid-19 immunity card and how do I get it?

Austria is a part of the European Covid-19 pass network since July 1st.

This means that if you are visiting Austria and you have the pass from your EU country, you can use it in Austria. 

Unfortunately, people with Covid-19 passes from outside the EU cannot yet use it in Austria, however they can use paper documentation. 

Also, as an Austrian phone number is needed to get the green pass (other than in Vienna), foreigners with documentation of a vaccination, recovery or a test cannot download it and use it when they are in Austria. 

Please read the following link for more information. 

EXPLAINED: Can tourists use Austria’s Covid-19 green pass to visit bars and events?

Elsewhere around Europe 

In Hungary immunity certificates delivered from the time of the first vaccine shot are required in health establishments and to attend sports and music events, as well as gatherings of more than 500 people.

 In Luxembourg a pass is asked for in shops.

In Azerbaijan a health pass has been mandatory since the beginning of June to enter sports centres or attend weddings.

In Portugal such a certificate is required to stay in a hotel or play sport. It is also required to eat inside restaurants, but only at weekends in the most hard-hit regions.

In Ireland the health pass is for the time being only needed for indoor eating and drinking in restaurants and pubs.

In Russia the Moscow region in June imposed a health pass for restaurants but this was so unpopular it was scrapped three weeks later.

The British government is planning to introduce in September a health pass in England to enter nightclubs and other places admitting large groups of people. Professional football matches could be included, reports say.

The UK’s other nations — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — set their own health policies.

Georgia is also planning a health pass.

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TRAVEL NEWS

What you should know about driving in Switzerland — and abroad — this summer

In many Swiss cantons, school holidays begin on Saturday, which means there will be traffic and bottlenecks. These are some things to remember before you hit the road.

What you should know about driving in Switzerland — and abroad — this summer

As The Local reported on June 28th, with flight cancellations and other disruptions expected at Swiss and European airports this summer — not to mention soaring air fares — many people are opting to remain in Europe, driving, rather than flying, to their holiday destinations.

Given all these impediments to air travel, “we assume that vacations by car will be more popular than ever this summer”, according to Jürg Wittwer, director of Touring Club Suisse (TCS) motoring organisation.

A good thing to know to avoid being stuck in a bottleneck is the Swiss traffic calendar indicating high-traffic days. “Light” days are listed in pink/orange, while very high traffic volumes are listed in red. 

READ MORE : The roads and dates to avoid driving in Switzerland this summer

You should also know which roads are usually most congested during high-volume times and avoid them:

  • The A3/A1 Basel-Zurich axis
  • The A3/A13 Zurich-Chur-San Bernardino-Bellinzona-Chiasso axis, particularly near Chur and the San Bernardino tunnel
  • Bern and surroundings (A1/A12/A6 interchange)
  • The A9 Lausanne-Montreux-Martigny-Brigue mainly near Lausanne and Montreux
  • The Martigny – Grand-St.-Bernard tunnel axis

You can avoid these bottlenecked routes by taking alternative roads, which may require a detour and are longer in terms on kilometres, but they are likely to get you to your destinations quicker.

If you are going to be driving exclusively in Switzerland, there are a few rules you should keep in mind (you likely know them already, but a reminder never hurts):

Vignette 

The very first thing you will need upon entry is a special sticker called a ‘vignette’ which you affix to your windshield.

Even if you are only planning to drive through Switzerland on the way to somewhere else or just visit for a few days, you still need a sticker for the current year to use the country’s motorways. 

You can purchase the vignette for 40 francs at border crossings, petrol stations and post offices. You can also buy it online.

If you are caught driving without it on motorways (but not on local roads), you will have to pay a fine of 200 francs. 

Worse yet, if you are caught forging a vignette, you could be slapped with a three-year prison sentence — a longer ‘holiday’ that you probably planned. 

Swiss vignette: What you need to know about Switzerland’s motorway charge sticker

Speeding

As almost everywhere else in the world, you must comply with speed limits on Swiss roads.

The maximum allowed speed is determined by the roads and areas in which you travel.

On motorways it is 120 km/hour, reduced to 100 km / hour on main roads (Autostrassen / semi-autoroutes / semiautostrade).

On roads in built-up areas located outside towns the speed is 80 km / hour, and in the cities, 50 km /hour.

Then there are some streets near schools, in residential areas or in villages, where the speed is reduced to 30 km / hour.

Speed limits can also be temporarily adjusted in the event of road repairs or construction work.

The amount of your fine will depend on where you are caught and how fast you were driving.

If you exceed the speed limit by up to 5 km / hour, your fine will be 20 francs on the motorway and 40 francs if the infraction happened on main or secondary roads.

Driving in Switzerland: Which canton has the highest speeding fines?

The fine for driving between 6 and 10 km / hour over the legal limit is 60 francs on the motorway, 100 on the main roads, and 120 francs in built-up areas.

Driving 11 to 15 km/hour over the maximum speed will cost you 120 francs on the motorway, 160 on the main road, and 250 in built-up areas.

Exceeding the limit by over 16 to 20 km/hour gets you in more trouble: 180 francs on the motorway and 240 on the main road. But if you get caught dashing at this speed through a built-up area, you will be issued a heftier fine or a summons to appear in court.

You will receive a payment slip by registered letter, which will also include a form to fill out. You will be asked whether you or someone else was the driver.

Designating someone else as the guilty party may backfire, however. More often than not, your infraction is caught on camera, showing who the speeding driver is.

If you are speeding in a rented vehicle, then the fine will be sent to the rental agency and added onto your credit card.

The message here is clear: there is no way of escaping a fine for a speeding infraction — no matter how fast you try to escape!

Headlights

All motor vehicles with the exception of  mopeds, e-bikes and bicycles, as well as cars that were registered before 1970, must have their headlights on during daylight hours.

Failure to do so will cost you 40 francs.

The zipper principle

No, not that zipper.

Since 2021, zipping — which keeps traffic flowing by bringing order and organisation to the merging process — should be applied as soon as a lane on the freeway is closed. Drivers use both lanes to the point of closure, then alternate, zipper-like, into the open lane

This will makes traffic flow more smoothly and prevents delays caused by changing lanes too early.

You can find out about other Swiss traffic rules here:

EXPLAINED: How visitors to Switzerland can avoid driving penalties

And this is what you should know if you are driving abroad

Anticipate heavy traffic and bottlenecks on the roads leading towards Italy, France, Spain and Portugal — the most popular vacation spots for tourists from Switzerland.

Knowing the traffic rules of the country you are going to (or driving through) can make the journey easier and more pleasant. For instance, according to AXA insurance:

  • In Austria, you can pre-pay motorway tolls online, which should save you time by not having to queue up.
  • In Italy, “foreign vehicles can be seized on the spot if you can’t pay a fine”, so make sure you have the means to do so if you commit an infraction.
  • In France, if you exceed the speed limit by 40 kilometres per hour or more on the motorway, “the police are authorised to seize your driver’s license on the spot”. It is then forwarded to the Swiss authorities where legal  proceedings will await your return.

Wittwer also warned of possible problems in the event of a breakdown, as services abroad have too few personnel to cope with the influx of tourists.

“Also, international supply chains don’t work. So there is a lack of spare parts. Repairs can therefore take a long time”, he said.

Passports

If you are driving within the Schengen area, chances are you will not have to stop for an identity check at any borders, though random controls can happen.

But if you venture farther afield into non-Schengen territory (including the UK), be prepared for passport checks, which may slow you down at border crossings.

This is a list of countries that don’t belong to the Schengen zone.

Also, an important thing to know is that all vehicles registered in Switzerland, including motor homes and motorcycles, must display the oval, black-and-white CH sticker on the rear when travelling on foreign roads.

To be clear, this rule applies only to cars that travel abroad; if you never leave Switzerland at all, the sticker is not a requirement.

READ MORE : Do I need a ‘CH sticker’ on my car when I leave Switzerland?

Last but not least, if you want to keep abreast of the traffic situation on European roads, this link will help.

 

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