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Travel: Will Switzerland scrap the PCR test rule on entry?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 17 Dec, 2021 Updated Fri 17 Dec 2021 12:17 CEST
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Among the new anti-Covid measures that are set to be announced this afternoon, the Federal Council is expected to modify its current rules pertaining to entering Switzerland from abroad.

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Please note: Switzerland did indeed relax the PCR test rule when meeting on Friday. Click here for more information. 

On December 4th, Switzerland scrapped the 10-day quarantine requirement, which targeted countries on Switzerland’s virus variant list, in favour of a testing scheme for all arrivals. 

Under these rules, everyone entering Switzerland must show a negative PCR test upon arrival. The test must be no more than 72 hours old. 

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

Arrivals will then have to take another PCR or antigen test, between four and seven days after entering, except those who are staying less than four days in the country.

The results need to communicated to the canton.

However, according to media reports, the requirement to present a PCR test upon arrival could be cancelled for vaccinated and recovered travellers, and the option of a (quicker and cheaper) antigen test may be adapted instead.

In its package of measures that the Federal Council sent to the cantons for consultation — which include the 2G rule and partial closures — it proposed to allow people entering Switzerland to be able to opt for a rapid antigen test instead of PCR.

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

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Some cantons, however, oppose this idea. "From a health point of view, PCR tests are more reliable," said the Fribourg Council of State.

Others back the proposal.

Vaud is in favour of PCR tests but would eliminate the second test  to be performed between the fourth and seventh day after entry.

Cantons Zurich and Bern are going even farther by pushing for the abandonment of all entry tests for the vaccinated and cured.

Less strict testing measures on arrival will be a welcome relief to many travellers, including Swiss citizens and permanent residents returning to Switzerland after a trip abroad.

That’s because tests add not only inconvenience, but also additional costs to the price of foreign travel.

Prices of tests vary throughout Switzerland, but a PCR test for people without symptoms costs around 180 francs and a rapid  antigen test about 50 francs.

Because one negative test is needed by most countries to enter, and two tests are now required to return to Switzerland, you have to add, at the very least, 230 francs to the price of ticket, per person.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s new testing rules: How much travelling abroad now costs

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Is it possible to bypass the testing requirements that are currently in place?

Before arriving, each passenger must fill out a form stating the origin and destination of their trip, including their address in Switzerland.

A QR code is then generated, and these documents are forwarded to the cantons.

According to 20 Minutes, however, no strict controls are carried out at the border, especially if arriving in Switzerland by car.

“The airlines do not allow those who do not have a test on board, but people returning to Switzerland by train or car know it well: it is very rare that customs carry out any checks”.

Still, for many Swiss honesty is the best policy.

“Switzerland has always had the same policy since the start of the pandemic: to focus on the responsibility of citizens, with only occasional checks”, 20 Minutes writes.

And it seems to be paying off in most cases. In Solothurn, 90 percent pf people transmitted the result to the canton since the entry into force of the entry tests regime. In Lucerne, this rate is around 80 percent.

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2021/12/17 12:17

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