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Can travellers land in Switzerland and transit elsewhere under new Covid rules?

Switzerland’s strict new quarantine rules require travellers from several countries to quarantine. But what happens if they land at border airports?

A person in a mask rides their bike past Geneva Airport
If you land in Geneva and want to go directly to France, do you need to quarantine? Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

PLEASE NOTE: Switzerland on December 4th scrapped the quarantine requirement. Please click here for an up to date summary of transit rules with regard to testing.

Starting on Friday, November 26th, Switzerland put in place strict controls – including mandatory ten-day quarantines and testing requirements – on arrivals from certain countries where ‘virus variants’ are present. 

As at Tuesday, November 30th, this has now been extended to around two dozen countries, including the United Kingdom, Belgium and the Netherlands. 

UPDATE: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

Some confusion has however emerged on whether people arriving from one of these countries are allowed to land in a Swiss airport, before transiting elsewhere. 

Switzerland has a number of ‘border airports’ which serve both Switzerland and neighbouring countries, including Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport and Geneva Airport. 

While Basel Airport still allows you to leave on the European Union side, the ‘French side’ of the Geneva Airport has been shut down for several months and remains closed as at time of writing (November 30th, 2021)

Can travellers land at Swiss airports and transit elsewhere under new quarantine rules? 

Fortunately for travellers transiting through Swiss airports, you will not need to quarantine provided you leave Switzerland immediately, by either land or by air. 

A spokesperson from Switzerland’s Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH) confirmed to The Local on November 30th that anyone landing in a Swiss airport would not need to comply with the quarantine or test requirements, provided they were transiting immediately to another country. 

The FOPH said expressly “those entering the country are not subject to the obligation to quarantine if they travel directly to Germany or France by land or air without making a stopover en route, such as for a visit.”

This is supported by the COVID-19 Ordinance on International Passenger Transport Measures, which is the relevant regulation for entering Switzerland. 

Article 8(f) says expressly “persons who enter Switzerland for the purpose of transiting the country and who intend and are able to travel on directly to another country” will not be subject to the requirements, i.e. quarantining and testing.”

The official rule can be found here. 

Importantly, while you will be allowed to land in Switzerland if you are transiting immediately, be aware that you need to comply with the rules in France, Germany or wherever you are transiting to. 

Here is information on entering France and on entering Germany

Why was this confusing?

Other sources, including the British consulate in Bern, have published contradicting information which suggests that people must quarantine when landing in Switzerland, regardless of whether they are transiting. 

On Tuesday, November 30th, a spokesperson for Geneva Airport told The Local that the quarantine and testing requirement would apply to everyone landing at the airport (provided they came from a ‘virus variant country’), even if they are transiting directly abroad. 

“It is important to note that anyone arriving at Geneva Airport cannot transit Switzerland (e.g. to France) without undertaking 10 days quarantine,” a spokesperson told The Local. 

Anyone who heard this may have been concerned, however this contradicts with official Swiss government information and travellers will not need to quarantine (provided they leave Switzerland immediately). 

Editor’s note: Geneva Airport updated their policies on December 1st to say that passengers can indeed transit to France, provided they do so immediately. 

What about the entry form?

Everyone entering Switzerland, regardless of quarantine or testing rules, will need to fill out the entry form.

READ MORE: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland

I am flying to a Swiss Airport with a plan on transiting. What should I do to make sure I don’t have to quarantine or provide a test?

As illustrated above, while Swiss law does provide an exception to the quarantine and testing requirement, airports themselves may not be aware of this due to the fast-moving nature of the situation. 

One option is to print the section of the regulation which expressly allows for transit. 

This is available in English here. Click the links for versions in German, French and Italian. 

In order to make it clear to airport/border staff that you are not intending to stop or stay in Switzerland, it may help to print out your end destination and carrying evidence of your connections – for instance onward flight tickets, train tickets or car rental details. 

Please note that this is intended as a guide only and is based on fast-changing information. It does not constitute legal advice and should not replace information from a qualified advisor. 

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US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry – although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons – there was no announcement on lifting this restriction. 

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.