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NEW: Switzerland announces tougher Covid border rules for travellers

Switzerland announced Friday that all travellers entering the country who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the disease will need proof of a negative test.

NEW: Switzerland announces tougher Covid border rules for travellers
New rules for travellers from abroad will go into effect on Monday. Photo by Zurich Airport

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Health Minister Alain Berset outlined tighter measures that will be implemented from Monday for travellers arriving in Switzerland from abroad.

Those who have no Covid certificate to prove vaccination or those who cannot show proof of having had the virus and recovered in the past six months will have to show proof of a negative test upon arrival in Switzerland.

Four to seven days later, they will have to undergo another test.

Keep in mind that these rules only apply to arrivals from countries not on the SEM high-risk list. As the United States and United Kingdom are considered high risk, only vaccinated people from those countries can arrive in Switzerland. Click here for more information. 

Bern said the measures were a bid to prevent a spike in cases once people start returning from their autumn vacation, following a surge in Delta variant infections after the summer holidays.

Additionally, everyone arriving in Switzerland, regardless of their vaccination or recovery status, will have to fill out an entry form.

The cantons are required to carry out random checks to verify whether unvaccinated travellers have actually undergone a second test.

Whoever violates these rules will incur a fine of 200 francs for entry without a test certificate and 100 francs for an incomplete form.

More than two million people and one million vehicles cross landlocked Switzerland’s borders every day.

Cross-border workers, travellers in transit, long-haulers, and people living in regions bordering Switzerland will be exempted from these rules, Berset said.

“The new rules are not a panacea but new measures are needed to prevent the health system from being overburdened”, Berset noted.

The measures are not as drastic as one of the other options debated that would require arrivals without a Covid certificate to go into quarantine for 10 days, with people allowed to leave quarantine from the seventh day with a negative test result. 

The new rules will go into effect a week after the general extension of the Covid certificate was implemented in Switzerland to nearly all indoor venues.

READ MORE: TODAY: Switzerland extends Covid certificate for entry to restaurants and bars

Vaccination rates in Switzerland are lagging behind those of its neighbours, with only 53.3 percent of the population fully immunised.

Some 31 percent of intensive care unit beds are filled with Covid-19 patients.

Switzerland now requires people to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test to go into bars and restaurants, cinemas, exhibitions and indoor sporting events.

From Monday, foreign visitors vaccinated abroad with a jab approved by the European Medicines Agency will be able to obtain a Swiss Covid certificate enabling them to enter restaurants and venues.

Protests against measures in Switzerland

The restrictions are unpopular with sections of the Swiss population, and demonstrations — normally rare in Switzerland — are on the increase.

On Thursday evening, some 3,000-4,000 people marched in the capital Bern in opposition to the measures and restrictions.

Some attacked the fence surrounding the Federal Palace, seat of the government and parliament, and the police responded with water cannon and rubber bullets, Swiss news agency ATS reported.

“Anything that is an act of violence is condemned without restriction,” Swiss President Guy Parmelin told a press conference on Friday.

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Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

Under a new plan put forth by the Swiss government, anyone who needs a booster shot for travel abroad should pay for it out of pocket.

Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

While Covid shots were previously free for everyone in Switzerland, with the Swiss government picking up the tab, the country has been reluctant to issue a recommendation for a second booster.

As The Local reported on Monday, this means that many people’s most recent shot will soon be more than nine months ago, which is the date at which many Covid passes expire. 

READ MORE: What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

Although evidence of vaccination is not required domestically in Switzerland any more, it may pose issues in travel. 

Since many countries still require a vaccination certificate for entry, and as the second round of boosters is not yet available in Switzerland, this means that a large number of people may not be able to travel abroad.

Swiss health authorities: Travellers should pay for Covid boosters themselves

According to newest recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), people travelling abroad who need second booster doses must pay for the shots themselves.

As the fourth vaccine dose is currently recommended only for people with a severely weakened immune system, everyone outside of this group will be charged as yet undefined fee.

The proposal was sent to the cantons for consultation until June 1st.

If agreed on, the Federal Council will adjust the Epidemics Ordinance accordingly on June 10th.