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COVID-19

UPDATE: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

Switzerland has again updated its entry rules. Here’s what you need to know.

A no entry sign in the middle of the forest
Switzerland has again updated its entry rules. Here's what you need to know. Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev from Pexels

PLEASE NOTE: Switzerland on Friday announced it would be scrapping the quarantine requirement for all arrivals, effective Saturday, December 4th. Please click here for more information. 

Ahead of the coming winter and due largely to concern surrounding the new Omicron variant, Switzerland has again tightened border rules. However, contrary to some media reports, a quarantine “for all arrivals” has not been put in place

Depending on where you are coming in from – and of course on your citizenship or residency status – you may be required to quarantine or even be prevented from entering Switzerland completely. 

If you’re landing in one of Switzerland’s ‘border airports’ – i.e. those which serve more than one country like Basel and Geneva – then read this guide for specific information

Everyone entering Switzerland will need to fill out the entry form.

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

What are the current rules for entering Switzerland? 

Switzerland’s entry rules often cause confusion because entry is regulated by two different government departments: the Federal Office of Public Health and the State Secretariat for Migration. 

These two departments each have a list of countries deemed ‘high risk’, although the exact consequences of being on these lists differs. 

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 requires a ten-day quarantine, even if you are vaccinated and even if you are a Swiss citizen or resident.

The full list of countries on this list has changed on a daily basis in end November and is laid out in depth below. 

The other list, prepared by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), covers 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. 

The SEM list is as follows: Botswana, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

There are a number of exceptions to the rules, for instance for transit or if you work to maintain public order. These are listed here. 

I’m confused about the lists – what does it all mean? 

The rules are certainly confusing – which is not helped by the two lists. 

Put simply, the SEM (State Secretariat for Migration) does not decide quarantine rules, but decides only who can and cannot enter Switzerland.

The FOPH (Federal Office of Public Health) does not decide who can and cannot enter, but decides whether quarantine rules apply, and other measures such as testing. 

The SEM list does not apply to you if you are a Swiss citizen, a Swiss resident or a resident of the Schengen/EFTA zone. I.e. here, your citizenship or residency status matters more than where you are entering from. 

The FOPH list applies to you regardless of where you are from and is determined on the basis of where you are entering from, regardless of citizenship. 

The following graphic from the Swiss government illustrates how this works. 

What about vaccinated and unvaccinated people? 

Generally speaking, greater restrictions apply to vaccinated people than to unvaccinated people re: entering Switzerland. 

Unvaccinated people from outside the Schengen/EFTA states and a handful of other ‘safe’ states on specific list (yes, another, different list which is available here) will not be allowed to enter Switzerland.

This includes the United States and the United Kingdom. More information is available at this link. 

Who is on the ‘variant of concern’ list?

There are approximately two dozen countries on the variant of concern list. Arriving from any country on this list – which means being in one of these countries for the ten days prior to entry – requires a mandatory quarantine regardless of vaccination or residency/citizenship status. 

The list as at November 30 is: Angola, Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  

The full list of stipulations is illustrated below. 

Image: FOPH

Image: FOPH

Click here for official government information. 

Are there any exceptions? 

One major exception to be aware of is transit. If you land in Switzerland and plan to transit to another country – either by land or by air – you will not have to quarantine in Switzerland (although you still need to fill out the entry form).

More on that is available in the following report.

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

How has this changed over time? 

The first countries were added to the list on Friday, November 26th, including Belgium, Botswana, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

Czech Republic, Egypt, Malawi, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were added on Saturday. 

READ MORE: Switzerland imposes quarantine on all arrivals from UK

Switzerland on Monday added another four including Angola, Australia, Denmark and Zambia. 

On Tuesday, Switzerland added Portugal, Canada, Nigeria and Japan.

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COVID-19

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.

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