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UPDATE: What are the Covid rules for transiting through Switzerland?

Landing or arriving in Switzerland only to transit elsewhere? Here’s what you need to know.

Basel Airport on a sunny day
Basel Airport serves not only Switzerland but Germany and France. Von Fanny Schertzer - Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Switzerland’s rapidly changing entry rules have led to confusing among Swiss residents and tourists alike. 

While the quarantine requirement was scrapped on December 4th, a new testing scheme now applies for arrivals from all countries. 

Unless arriving from a ‘border region’, which are outlined here, all arrivals need to complete a PCR test on entry and a later test (either PCR or antigen) between four and seven days after arriving. 

The rule applies to Swiss residents and tourists, but conflicting reports have emerged about the rules for transiting passengers. 

Please note that while the Swiss government has confirmed to The Local that transit passengers will be allowed to enter Switzerland without providing a test, we have been contacted by readers who told us that some airlines and airport staff (at non-Swiss airports) have stopped them from flying to Switzerland without a PCR test – even though they were planning to transit. 

This appears to be more of an issue in Geneva, where the French-side exit has been closed. Basel Airport’s French and German-side exits remain open. 

Do Switzerland’s tighter testing requirements apply to people who are only transiting through Switzerland? 

Fortunately for travellers transiting through Swiss airports, you will not need to show a negative PCR test 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

*The FOPH provided this advice when the quarantine requirement for entering Switzerland was still valid. 

Why was this confusing? 

Other sources, including Geneva Airport and the British Consulate in Bern, have published conflicting reports as the situation emerged. 

Even the Swiss government’s ‘Travelcheck’ interactive online tool, which helps arrivals from all countries work out which rules apply, currently says that people who leave the airport are required to show a PCR test. 

‘Travelcheck’: This tool shows you what you need to enter Switzerland

However, as illustrated by the Swiss government above, as long as you are leaving Switzerland immediately, you are not subject to testing requirements. 

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?

While Swiss law does provide an exception to the 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 GermanFrench 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. 

Some staff at non-Swiss airports have stopped people on the way to Switzerland and asked for a PCR test even though they were transiting. To be extra sure, if you are flying to Switzerland with the purpose of transiting please check with your departure airport ahead of time. 

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. 

Member comments

  1. This update is very helpful. However, I’m still a little bit uncertain whether you’ll still have to show a test certificate to board a plane going to Geneva (which I believe is a Swiss requirement on the airline companies) even though you won’t have to show it on arrival if you’re transiting. Or is there a process for declaring that you’re transiting when you board the plane?! This is only an issue because Switzerland needs a PCR test whereas France accepts a cheaper and much easier lateral flow test……. Chris Hedley

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”