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EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s new travel and Covid certificate rules?

Starting on September 20th, Switzerland is introducing new measures for travellers entering the country who have not been vaccinated against Covid or recovered from the disease. There are changes for vaccinated tourists as well.

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland's new travel and Covid certificate rules?
New rules are in place for arrivals in Switzerland. Photo by Fabrica Coffrini / AFP

The new travel rules are being implemented a week after the Covid certificate became compulsory to access almost all indoor areas in Switzerland, including restaurants, bars, fitness centres, sports events, cultural facilities, as well as some gatherings such as weddings in private venues.

EXPLAINED: Who can enter Switzerland right now and what are the rules?

New vaccine types are now recognised for foreign tourists

Prior to September 20th, only vaccines approved for use in Switzerland — Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson — were accepted for the Covid certificate.

But from Monday, foreign visitors vaccinated abroad with a jab approved by the European Medicines Agency will be able to obtain a Swiss Covid certificate.

This includes people vaccinated with AstraZeneca.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can I get a Covid certificate in Switzerland if I was vaccinated with AstraZeneca?

Two tests to enter Switzerland are now required for the unvaccinated and unrecovered

Unvaccinated arrivals and those who have not contracted and recovered from the virus in the past six months must show two negative tests. 

When arriving, they must show proof of a negative test upon arrival in Switzerland, regardless of the means according to which they have arrived. 

Four to seven days later, they will have to undergo another test, which they must pay for themselves.

Both PCR and antigen results are accepted.

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. 

You can find a testing centre anywhere in Switzerland here.

The result of the second test must be sent to the cantonal health office where the person took the test.

Why are unvaccinated and unrecovered arrivals required to test twice?

The government wants to “prevent an increase in the number of infections caused by people returning from the autumn holidays” — a two-week school break during October.

“This comes in response to experience made after the summer holidays: data from the cantonal contact tracing offices indicates that returning holidaymakers contributed to the worsening situation after the summer”, the Federal Council said in a statement.

“The new rules reflect the fact that the highly contagious Delta variant can cause case numbers to rise very rapidly on a regional basis”.

Another requirement: a form

All travellers– whether vaccinated, recovered or with a negative test – must also complete the passenger locator form before entering Switzerland.

“This will enable the cantons to carry out random checks to determine whether people who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered and who entered the country with a test have actually taken the second test after four to seven days”, the Federal Council said.

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

Exemptions to the rule

The test and entry form requirements do not apply to travellers in transit through Switzerland without stopping, drivers who transport people or goods professionally, cross-border commuters, and people entering from border areas.

Children under 16 are also exempt from the test requirement, according to the Federal Council.

Can you now use the UK’s NHS app in Switzerland?

Currently, apps from other EU countries can be used in Switzerland anywhere where the Covid certificate is accepted.

The situation for non-EU apps is more difficult.

As yet, any apps from outside the EU are not accepted, including the NHS app and Israel’s Green Pass app.

When Switzerland expanded the Covid certificate framework, it said non-EU apps “may be recognised” at some point in the future.

You can read more about this here:

Covid certificate: Can the UK’s NHS app be used in Switzerland?

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The Covid rules you should know if you’re travelling from Switzerland this summer

When it comes to Covid regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe, the situation is certainly much more relaxed than it was last summer. However, certain countries still maintain rules in regards to vaccinations and masks.

The Covid rules you should know if you're travelling from Switzerland this summer

Months ago, health experts predicted that coronavirus will not be circulating extensively during the summer months and won’t strike us again before the weather turns cold in the fall / winter.

But as it turns out, these forecasts were wrong, as Omicron and its highly contagious sub-variants keep infecting increasing numbers of people across Europe.

In Switzerland, the number of reported contaminations has risen from under 10,000 a week in May to 33,108 registered in a span of seven days on June 28, with officials expecting an explosion in cases as summer progresses.

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

What does this mean for international travel?

As of right now (and the situation could change in coming weeks), Switzerland doesn’t require either testing or proof of vaccination upon entry. This is also the situation in many other countries in Europe as well as farther afield.

However, some popular European tourist destinations still (or again) have Covid-related entry regulations in place, as well as rules inside the country.

This is an overview of the places where people who live in Switzerland like to spend their summer holidays:

France

Entry requirements:

For vaccinated persons, full vaccination for at least one week must be proven. The last dose must be less than nine months old. Cured people can travel a week after receiving a single dose.

For recovered people: the positive result of a PCR test more than 11 days old and less than six months.

For non-vaccinated persons: a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 48 hours before departure. Children under 12 are exempt.

On-site measures:

Wearing a mask on public transport, which has not been required since May 16th, is once again strongly recommended — though not compulsory.

Italy

While proof of vaccination or negative test is not required to enter Italy, there are some mask requirements in place in the country.

From mid-June, Italian government extended the obligation to wear FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30th, except on planes. The surgical mask is also still compulsory from the age of six in health establishments.

Portugal

Proof of full vaccination for at least 14 days is required to enter, with the last dose no older than 270 days ago. Swiss Covid certificates should suffice.

For recovered people, proof of recovery dating from 11 to 180 days before arrival in Portugal is required.

The unvaccinated should have a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 24 hours before departure.

Children under 12 are exempt from these requirements.

Also, all travellers must fill out a passenger locator card before departure, as well as a form required by the Portuguese health authorities before their departure or during the flight.

On-site measures:

Portugal decided on April 21st to end the obligation to wear a mask indoors. However, masks are still required on public transport, hospitals or retirement homes.

These are the regulation for mainland Portugal; those visiting Madeira, can see the rules in this link.

Spain

Since June 2nd, travellers from a Schengen area (which includes Switzerland) are no longer subject to any health checks upon arrival.

On-site measures:

Spain lifted the requirement to wear a mask indoors on April 20th. The mask is, however, still required from the age of six on public transport, in hospitals and retirement homes. Differences may exist between regions, so consult the websites of individual areas.

Austria

Since May 16th, travel restrictions have been lifted. Nevertheless, an FFP2 mask remains compulsory from the age of six for flights to and from the Vienna region.

On-site measures

FFP2 masks are mandatory from the age of 14 on public transport and in pharmacies in Vienna.

Germany

Since June 1st and until at least August 31st, entry restrictions to Germany have all been suspended.

On-site measures:

No vaccination or testing rules on entry, but restrictions remain in some federal states, so check local websites for more information.

Wearing a mask remains compulsory from the age of six on public transport and in medical establishments. To go to the hospital, an antigen test of less than 24 hours or PCR of less than 48 hours is required.

READ MORE: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

United Kingdom

There are no more Covid restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and arrivals no longer need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.

United States

According to the US Embassy in Switzerland, “air travelers to the United States are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, prior to boarding a flight to the United States”.

However, there are different requirements for different categories of travelers: “all non-U.S.-citizen, nonimmigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) airline passengers traveling to the United States, must demonstrate proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S. bound aircraft”.

If you want to find out what the latest requirements are at your destination, you can do so by checking out the websites of their embassies in Switzerland, or official tourist bodies for each country / region.

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