Switzerland eases PCR test rule for travellers recovered from Covid

The Swiss government has responded to criticism surrounding its PCR test requirement, changing the rules slightly for those arriving in the country who have already had the virus. 

A person in a mask walks past a sign at Basel Airport
Switzerland has updated its entry rules. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Since December 4th, people arriving from almost all countries must provide a negative PCR test on entry, followed by another PCR or antigen test between four and seven days later. 

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

The criticism centred around the fact that people who have recently had Covid often test positive in PCR tests despite not being infectious with the virus. 

According to Swiss news outlet NZZ, who broke the story with confirmation from the Federal Office of Public Health, the PCR test requirement had made it “practically impossible” for some people to return home, as they continually tested positive despite no longer being contagious. 

The FOPH said the change had been made “so that the people concerned can travel back to Switzerland”. 

What is the new exception for recovered people? 

Under the new exception for recovered people, those who have had the virus within the past 30 days – and can prove it with a doctors certificate – do not need to provide evidence of a negative PCR test. 

They must however have no symptoms of the virus and must also have a negative rapid antigen test which is less than 24 hours old. 

As reported by NZZ, the exemption was passed on Friday, November 10th, but it does not yet appear on the FOPH website. 

Swiss virologist Isabella Eckerle told NZZ that PCR tests can show positive results several days after someone is no longer infectious. 

“There are now many studies that show that you are no longer infectious after around 8 to 10 days, even though the PCR test can be positive for longer.”

People who arrive without a PCR test who do not fit within the exception must pay a CHF200 fine and must take a PCR test in Switzerland, which cost approximately CHF 110 (€100), or CHF 195 (€175) for rapid PCR tests.

Switzerland: What happens if I arrive without a PCR test?

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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.”