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COVID-19

Clarification: Switzerland imposes quarantine on all arrivals from UK

UPDATE: Switzerland added the UK to its list of countries with a variant of concern on Saturday evening meaning arrivals will need to complete a ten-day quarantine, but has not banned all travellers from the UK as was initially suggested.

Commercial planes of Swiss airline and low cost airline EasyJet are seen parked
As Switzerland adds the UK to its list of countries with a variant of concern, UK residents and citizens can no longer enter the country. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

As of 8pm on November 27th, the UK – along with Czech Republic, Netherlands, Egypt and Malawi – was added to the list of countries with a variant of concern

Travellers from the UK will be required to show a negative test result and quarantine for 10 days, even if they are vaccinated or have recovered from the virus.

They will also to report to the cantonal authority and then take another PCR test between four and seven days after arrival.

“The cantonal authority must be informed of the result of the second test and the number of the entry form must be sent,” Swiss authorities say.

You can find the contact details for cantonal authorities here.

Countries across Europe are ramping up restrictions in a bid to stem the spread of the newly discovered Omicron variant of the virus.

Why the confusion – and what are the rules? 

However Switzerland has not banned all arrivals from the UK as as initially reported.

Switzerland keeps two separate lists relating to entry rules. One, prepared by the Federal Office of Public Health and available here, lists countries with a variant of concern. Entry from countries on that list – which includes the United Kingdom – requires a ten-day quarantine. 

The other, prepared by the State Secretariat for Migration and available here, lists high-risk countries from which entry is not possible, unless you are a Swiss citizen or resident. The United Kingdom is not on this list. 

However, when the announcement was made by the Swiss government on Saturday, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health website appeared to confuse the two lists, saying that entry was banned from countries with a variant of concern, other than for Swiss citizens and residents. 

While the website has since been updated to correct the error, the following screenshot shows the government’s original statement, from which The Local’s reporting was based. 

Due to the rapidly changing nature of the situation, it appears that some details were released before policies were finalised. 

As at Monday evening, November 29th, the Swiss government’s interactive ‘Travelcheck’ website – which provides tailored advice to individuals on the basis of the country they are arriving from and their vaccination status – had been taken down. 

As can be seen in the following screenshot,  message appeared under the Travelcheck URL telling people to visit the FOPH and SEM websites for more information. 

Image: FOPH

Image: FOPH

Initially The Local reported that Switzerland had banned all travellers from the UK after it was reported on the official government website over the weekend. We apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused. Please get in touch with us at [email protected] for further clarifications. 

Member comments

  1. What a shame – most visitors from UK will have had three vaccines . The hotels and ski resorts will all suffer again. Life has to go on .

  2. This is stupid and makes no sense. With just under two-thirds of the Swiss population fully vaccinated, the Swiss have one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe. The variant is probably already in Switzerland as it has been proven time and time again that travel bans don’t work. I’m not sure who the Swiss government is trying to protect – the unvaccinated?

  3. Looking more closely at this, it looks like fully vaccinated Brits can still enter Switzerland, subject to a negative PCR test and 10 days quarantine. It is only the unvaccinated who are not allowed to enter. Can anyone confirm that?

    1. I agree it’s slightly unclear, and the UK government site still seem to say it’s ok to enter CH providing you have a PCR test and quarantine 10 days.

      I’m sure the next few days will confirm that the new covid variation is already in Europe, and hopefully the exiting vaccine will still be effective at preventing serious disease. With luck we can swiftly return to where we were, fingers crossed before Christmas! The Swiss hospitality trade will be hoping so.

    2. Well, they have just updated the website and removed some of the text. The bottom paragraph is no longer there. I guess it was causing a lot of confusion. I think the condition is that if you are Brit visiting Switzerland, you now have the quarantine for 10 days. I don’t think Brits are banned from entering Switzerland. The way they’ve communicated this is incredibly poor and confusing. It’s also a bit ridiculous. The Covid situation in the UK has stabilised, while its population are far better vaccinated compared to Switzerland where daily rates are shooting through the roof.

      1. I hope your interpretation is correct, it’s incredibly depressing being locked out. If necessary, compulsory quarantine would seem reasonable.

        1. “Eligibility to enter Switzerland
          You are eligible to enter Switzerland for any travel purpose if you are fully vaccinated and can show adequate proof (detailed below). From 27 November 2021, in addition to the requirements below, you must show a negative COVID-19 test result (PCR or antigen) and self-quarantine for 10 days. This follows the addition of the UK to the Swiss Federal Office of Health’s list of countries with a variant of concern. More detail is available on the Swiss Federal Office of Health’s website.”

          This is from the UK government site. Reading the information from the FOPH, it seems to confirm this.

    3. Hi all,

      As we’ve mentioned above, the Swiss government changed their official advice. After originally saying there was a ban, this became a ten-day quarantine. We’ve done our best to keep you up to date, but sorry for the inconvenience.

      Daniel Wighton
      Editor
      The Local Switzerland

  4. What’s the situation if you fly to Geneva from UK purely to transit into France ( ie ~30 minutes in Switzerland and no place to stay)?

    1. Para f of this page indicates that you might be OK, but I don’t know how you’d prove it at immigration.
      https://www.fedlex.admin.ch/eli/cc/2021/61/en#art_8

      This alo contradicts info the British consulate in Bern put out yesterday via Facebook which suggested that transit passengers would be caught by quarantine rules.

      If you’re flying with BA then it’s also possible that the flight will be cancelled. Last time everything went into shutdown we stopped booking BA flights from Zurich to the UK because they were cancelled with little notice.

    2. Hi Pat,

      We’re working to clarify this as soon as possible. We’ve heard contrary messages from the FOPH and Geneva Airport, so we are looking for a conclusive opinion and will keep you up to date.

      Daniel.

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TRAIN TRAVEL

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it also has a great location right in the centre of Europe, making it an ideal starting point for train travel. Here are five destinations you can reach in less than five hours from Zurich.

Five European cities you can reach from Zurich in less than five hours by train

As summer is still in full swing and there are many vacation days (or free weekends) to enjoy the sunny weather, it’s not the wrong time to do some travelling. Switzerland is a beautiful country, but it’s also centrally located in Europe. This means that many major European cities are reachable in just a few hours.

If you are located in Zurich, for example, then you are very near Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein and Austria. In less than five hours, visiting beautiful cities in these five countries is possible by taking a comfortable train ride.

So, select your final destination, get your ticket, and enjoy the ride.

READ ALSO: Switzerland’s ten most beautiful villages you have to visit

From Zurich to Strasbourg

It will take you just about 2 hours and 30 minutes (including time to stop and change trains in Basel) to get from Zurich’s mains station to the beautiful and historical city of Strasbourg, in northeast France.

Prices vary depending on several factors, but we found one-way tickets for just around CHF 23 on a Friday.

From Zurich to Munich

The capital of Bavaria can be reached from Zurich’s central station on a direct train in just 3 hours 30 minutes, allowing for short stays.

Munich may seem quite far away on a map, but the fast trains without stopovers actually make the journey quick and pleasant. We found one-way tickets for around CHF 70 on a Friday trip.

From Zurich to Vaduz

The capital of Liechtenstein is easy to reach in less than 2 hours from the Zurich central station. In fact, some journeys will take just about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The lovely town bordering Switzerland has many tourist attractions, from its pedestrian historical centre to castles and parks. Train ticket prices always vary, but we found tickets for a one-way journey on a Friday costing CHF 20.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

From Zurich to Milan

Depending on the train you take, you can get from Zurich to Italy’s fashion capital in three to four hours with a direct train.

Before 2016, when the Gotthard Base Tunnel was opened to rail traffic, a trip from Zurich to Milan took an hour longer. It’s possible to find tickets for about CHF 70 for a one-way trip on a Friday.

From Zurich to Innsbruck

From Zurich, it is possible to hop on a direct train and, in just over 3 hours and 30 minutes, arrive in the beautiful town of Innsbruck, in the mountains of Tyrol.

Ticket costs vary, but we found tickets for a relatively short-notice one-way trip on a Friday (without discounts) for CHF 84.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

Cost:

Fares depend on several factors, such as time of the day and day of the week when you travel.

While a rock-bottom cheap fare may be available one day in the morning, it won’t necessarily be offered the next day (or week) in the afternoon, or vice-versa.

Prices also depend on whether you are entitled to any discounts and which wagon you choose.

If you are interested in travelling farther afield, including with night trains, or if you are in other Swiss cities, these articles provide more information:

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