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Covid: Will Switzerland restrict arrivals from the UK this winter?

Concerns about the Omicron variant have led several countries to prevent or heavily restrict arrivals from the UK. Will Switzerland follow suit?

A Union Jack - the flag of  the United Kingdom - next to a Swiss flag in Switzerland. Photo: STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP
A Union Jack - the flag of the United Kingdom - next to a Swiss flag in Switzerland. Photo: STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP

On Monday, December 20th, Switzerland put in place a range of new Covid measures in order to reduce contact, encourage vaccination and stop the spread of the virus. 

While several of Switzerland’s neighbours such as Germany and France have put in place restrictions on UK arrivals, Switzerland declined to follow suit. 

Instead, Switzerland effectively relaxed entry measures, saying that antigen (lateral flow) tests would be accepted in addition to PCR tests for all arrivals. 

Travel: What are Switzerland’s new entry requirements?

Currently, UK arrivals have been flocking to Switzerland, particularly ahead of the country’s winter sports season. 

As reported in Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes, the closure of several other European countries to UK residents has seen Switzerland become ever more popular with people from the UK. 

While this is good news for Switzerland’s struggling tourism industry, some UK-based readers have asked us if things are set to change in the coming days. 

Close in their memory was the decision in early December to place an immediate ten-day quarantine on all UK arrivals, which came into immediate effect without any notice for possible arrivals. 

What is the current situation regarding UK entry?  

As it stands, the UK is currently on Switzerland’s ‘high-risk’ list, which is set by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). 

READ MORE: Which countries are on Switzerland’s high-risk list?

Arrivals from countries deemed high risk must be fully vaccinated against Covid in order to enter Switzerland. 

In addition, arrivals must show a negative test. 

For PCR tests this can be up to 72 hours old, or for antigen tests up to 24 hours old. 

Will Switzerland restrict arrivals from the UK?

In addition to the SEM high-risk list, the SEM also has a variant list. 

The list includes several countries where an “immuno-evasive virus variant is spreading that is not yet prevalent in Switzerland”. 

These countries are predominantly from Southern Africa: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

UPDATE: Switzerland confirms only vaccinated Americans and Brits can enter

Arrival from these countries is restricted to Swiss citizens and residents. Tourist travel is not allowed. 

With the latest changes coming into effect on Monday, December 20th, it would seem likely that the government would wait to see what the impact of these changes were before putting in any further restrictions. 

Currently (as at December 21st), the Swiss government has no plans to place the UK on this list. 

However, authorities in Germany recently expanded the variant list to include the same southern African countries as well as the UK, meaning such a step is not out of the question. 

Therefore, while there are no indications the list will be expanded, this may change quickly, particularly as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the UK. 

Stay tuned to The Local for up-to-date information on the latest travel rules. 

Member comments

  1. The virus variant is already widespread in Europe and in Switzerland. It looks worse in the UK because the UK carries out more testing, so we are not comparing like with like. Closing borders at this stage has zero health benefit but will cause significant economic damage, for a second winter. Surely that’s not a price worth paying?

    1. Finally, someone with some sense. Of course, the fact that these tests also pick up dead virus present in the host long after that person is contagious is conveniently ignored. And no one is admitting that this omicrom variant is little more than a cold. FACT: If you’re over 70, Covid is marginally more lethal than the flu; under 70 marginally less. Is that reason to shut down the entire world? Where does it end? I tell you one thing, these bloody politicians and policy-makers are loving this. Speaks to their egos and gives them a raison d’etre.

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DISCOVER SWITZERLAND

IN PICTURES: Swiss push for destruction of ‘eyesore’ abandoned ski resorts

In a remote, secluded valley in the Swiss Alps, a line of rusty ski lift masts scar the grassy hillside where cows lazily graze.

IN PICTURES: Swiss push for destruction of ‘eyesore’ abandoned ski resorts

The lifts at the once bustling Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland’s southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, stopped running in 2010.

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland's southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland’s southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Since the local company that ran the small station folded, the infrastructure and facilities have been left as a disintegrating blemish on the Alpine landscape.

“Frankly, I would like to see them destroy it, raze it,” former resort director Claude Lattion acknowledged to AFP.

“You arrive from Italy over the Great Saint Bernard Pass and see this,” he said, nodding towards the graffiti-covered ruins and piles of broken glass that once housed the restaurant and ski lift departure station.

With its spectacular mountain landscapes and pristine slopes, Switzerland draws winter sports fans and tourists from around the world.

Former resort director Claude Lattion poses in the ruins of the departure gondola lift station of Super Saint-Bernard ski resort. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Former resort director Claude Lattion poses in the ruins of the departure gondola lift station of Super Saint-Bernard ski resort. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

But in recent years, shortages of snow and especially of money have seen many of its smaller, local stations struggle to keep their ski lifts running.

At least 14 out of 2,433 are currently out of order, according to the Federal Office of Transport. 

Snow business: How to find a job in winter sports in Switzerland

‘Eyesore’ 

Swiss law requires resort owners to pay for the cost of dismantling abandoned ski lifts.

But the situation is more complicated when resorts file for bankruptcy, as Super Saint Bernard has done.

Discussions about whether a buyer can be found, or if regional or local authorities should foot the bill, can drag on for years.

In the small neighbouring village of Bourg-Saint-Pierre, mayor Gilbert Tornare said several solutions have been examined “to get rid of this eyesore”.

But the cost is too steep for the community of just 200 people, he said.

The lifts at the Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland haven't run since 2010. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The lifts at the Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland haven’t run since 2010. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In all, up to two million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) will be needed to dismantle the station, removing the ski lift masts and decontaminating a site that stretches up to an altitude of 2,800 metres (9,200 feet).

Wallis canton, meanwhile, has suggested using army conscripts for the job to limit the cost.

The case illustrates the chronic difficulties facing smaller ski stations across Switzerland.

For resorts with fewer than 100,000 skiers a year, it is “difficult to turn a profit”, Swiss tourism expert Laurent Vanat told AFP.

Super Saint Bernard, which only had around 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) of slopes and was hampered by its remote location, far from the nearest village, was drawing only about 20,000 skiers per season before it closed.

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland's southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The abandoned Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

New use?

While the high-altitude station typically sees plenty of snow, other small resorts are being hit by the impact of climate change, which has left the white gold in short supply.

Watching his two dogs sniff around the wreckage of the business he once ran, Lattion said he would have liked to see Super Saint Bernard “put to new use”.

One young local entrepreneur wants to do just that and has proposed creating a hotel reachable by a small cable car.

Two unprepared slopes could be used in winter, while plenty of paths are available for summer hikes, offering a softer approach to mountain tourism than the one driven by the large resorts.

But their plan has been stalled for five years, with a controversial wind farm plan blocking all public financing for new ski projects in the area.

Rebuilding a ski station, Lattion acknowledged, “is not really in the spirit of the times”.

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