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SKIING

Reader question: Should I cancel my ski trip to Switzerland this winter?

The ever-changing travel rules and other Covid-related restrictions make it difficult to plan a ski trip to Switzerland in the coming weeks. Here’s an overview of how things stand right now and what they might look like in the near future.

Large cable cars will have their capacity reduced to 70 percent. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
Large cable cars will have their capacity reduced to 70 percent. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

In the pre-pandemic days, skiing or engaging in other winter sports in one of Switzerland’s trendy (or less trendy) resorts was relatively easy. All that was needed was plenty of snow, a plane ticket, hotel or apartment booking and lots of cash.

You still need snow and money to ski in Switzerland, but now planning a trip to Swiss Alps is fraught with uncertainty, which is expected to intensify as Christmas is approaching.

This uncertainty prevails on several levels.

Travelling to Switzerland

Under the new rules, everyone entering Switzerland must show a negative PCR test taken within 72  hours of arrival. This is required regardless of your vaccination status.

Those travelling via plane will also need to show the test before boarding. 

You will then need to take another PCR or antigen test between four and seven days after arriving — unless you are staying in Switzerland fewer than four days. 

READ MORE: Travel: What are Switzerland’s Covid test requirements?

These requirements were enforced on December 4th to rein in the spread of Covid and its newest variant, Omicron, while scientists are investigating whether vaccination protects against this particular strain, and to what extent.

These new rules may be necessary to keep the pandemic under control, but they are inconvenient from a purely tourism-related point of view, as they require additional advance planning and expense.

READ MORE: ‘A new wave’: Why Switzerland wants to impose tight new measures

The only way to get into Switzerland these days: a PCR test. Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP

Resort and ski slope requirements

You do not need a Covid certificate / proof of vaccination to ski, but you do need to show it to be allowed into indoor areas of bars and restaurants on slopes and in the resorts.

However, people eating and drinking on outdoor terraces and balconies will not need it.

The certificate will also be required to access all the indoor facilities like clubs, cinemas, gyms, private parties, and other indoor venues and activities.

Switzerland accepts the following vaccines for entry and access to the Covid certificate: Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sinovac, and Covaxin.

If you come from an EU/EFTA country, you can simply use your Covid pass anywhere the Swiss Covid certificate is required. 

Switzerland also recognises a number of foreign Covid passes, including all EU/EFTA countries, the UK, Israel, Turkey and several others. 

Travel: Which foreign Covid certificates does Switzerland recognise?

If you do not come from an EU/EFTA country and your country’s Covid pass is not recognised, you will need to get a Swiss Covid certificate. Some of the countries without mutual recognition include the United States and India. 

You will need to pay a fee of CHF30 ($32/£24/28.50/$AU44) in order to get the Covid certificate. 

Issuing Covid certificates is up to health authorities in every canton in a Swiss language or English. Foreigners can get a Covid certificate through a federal government site. The direct link to the government site is here

Canton-by-canton: How visitors can get Switzerland’s Covid certificate

You can also apply directly via the canton. While this may be more difficult in English in some cases, some visitors have told us that they were not charged when booking in their canton, so this may be an option for people wanting to save 30 francs. 

And another regulation has just been put in place: cable cars will introduce capacity restrictions from December 18th. Large gondolas accommodating more than 25 people will have their capacity reduced to 70 percent under new rules.

This may not sway you one way or another from coming to Switzerland, but do expect longer waits to get to the top of the mountain.

If you think it’s all downhill from here, it is not…

Tougher rules may be on the way

You may want to wait to book your ski holidays until next week because Switzerland may introduce stricter measures.

On December 10th, the government presented two separate sets of proposed measures that could be adopted due to the worsening epidemiological situation in the country.

“I would have liked to say enjoy the holidays,” President Guy Parmelin told a news conference on Friday, adding that “unfortunately, the government must once again propose additional measures to stymie a new wave” of infections.

The measures are either restricting indoor areas only to the vaccinated and those recovered from the virus — the so-called 2G rule — or partial closures.

Both options have been been sent out to the cantons for consultation and the governments is expected to announce the final decision on the measures to be implemented nationwide — if any — on Friday.

READ MORE: 2G or closures: Switzerland presents new Covid measures plan

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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