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EXPLAINED: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

From testing to quarantines and all-out bans, here are the latest rules for entering Switzerland.

What are the rules for entering Switzerland this Christmas? Photo by Jairph on Unsplash
What are the rules for entering Switzerland this Christmas? Photo by Jairph on Unsplash

From Monday, December 20th, Switzerland again changed its entry rules, both for people who live in Switzerland and those visiting from abroad. 

While the travel quarantine requirement has largely been removed for people entering the country, comprehensive testing rules now apply. 

There are also restrictions based on which country you are entering from and whether or not you have been vaccinated. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

What are the new testing rules? 

From December 20th, the entry rules will be relaxed, whereby people only need to show one test on entry (either PCR or antigen).

The PCR test can be up to 72 hours old, the antigen test must be less than 24 hours old.

Formerly this was just a PCR test. 

The requirement of completing another test from days four to seven after arriving has been dropped for people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from the virus. 

Unvaccinated or non-recovered people will need to complete either a PCR or an antigen test and send the result to the canton from day four to day seven. 

Who does the testing rule apply to? 

The testing rule applies to people who live in Switzerland or people who are visiting. It applies regardless of citizenship or residency status. 

There are however some exceptions, for example people under 16, transit passengers and people who are arriving from border regions in neighbouring states. 

For more information on the exceptions, please check out the following link. 

READ MORE: What are Switzerland’s new testing requirements for entry?

What about quarantines? 

There are currently no travel-related quarantines imposed in Switzerland.

Where quarantines and isolation orders do exist, this will be for contact cases with people who have the virus or who have a variant of the virus. 

Omicron in Switzerland: Vaccinated people also have to quarantine

Who is allowed to enter? 

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) has compiled a high-risk list and a list of virus variant countries. 

Anyone arriving from a country on the high-risk list will need to be fully vaccinated. 

As at December 20th, the high-risk list includes several large countries including India, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Entry from virus variant countries is not allowed for anyone other than a Swiss citizen or resident, regardless of vaccination status. 

For a comprehensive summary of the rules for the high-risk list, including which countries are currently on the list, check out the following link. 

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

How do I know whether I can enter Switzerland? 

As a recognition that the rules are complicated, the Swiss government has set up an interactive tool called ‘Travelcheck’.

This allows you to put in your personalised information, including where you are entering from, your residency and citizenship status and your vaccination status. 

You will then get an automate personalised response with information as to your entry situation. 

Travel: What are Switzerland’s new entry requirements?

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Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

A resurgence of Covid-19 cases in Europe, this time driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron subvariants, is once again threatening to disrupt people's summer plans.

Covid-19: European summer holidays threatened by rise of subvariants

Several Western European nations have recently recorded their highest daily case numbers in months, due in part to Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.

The increase in cases has spurred calls for increased vigilance across a continent that has relaxed most if not all coronavirus restrictions.

The first resurgence came in May in Portugal, where BA.5 propelled a wave that hit almost 30,000 cases a day at the beginning of June. That wave has since started to subside, however.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: German Health Ministry lays out autumn Covid plan

Italy recorded more than 62,700 cases on Tuesday, nearly doubling the number from the previous week, the health ministry said. 

Germany meanwhile reported more than 122,000 cases on Tuesday. 

France recorded over 95,000 cases on Tuesday, its highest daily number since late April, representing a 45-percent increase in just a week.

Austria this Wednesday recorded more than 10,000 for the first time since April.

READ ALSO: Italy’s transport mask rule extended to September as Covid rate rises

Cases have also surged in Britain, where there has been a seven-fold increase in Omicron reinfection, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The ONS blamed the rise on the BA.4 and BA.5 variants, but also said Covid fell to the sixth most common cause of death in May, accounting for 3.3 percent of all deaths in England and Wales.

BA.5 ‘taking over’

Mircea Sofonea, an epidemiologist at the University of Montpellier, said Covid’s European summer wave could be explained by two factors.

READ ALSO: 11,000 new cases: Will Austria reintroduce restrictions as infection numbers rise?

One is declining immunity, because “the protection conferred by an infection or a vaccine dose decreases in time,” he told AFP.

The other came down to the new subvariants BA.4 and particularly BA.5, which are spreading more quickly because they appear to be both more contagious and better able to escape immunity.

Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus and immunity unit at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, said BA.5 was “taking over” because it is 10 percent more contagious than BA.2.

“We are faced with a continuous evolution of the virus, which encounters people who already have antibodies — because they have been previously infected or vaccinated — and then must find a selective advantage to be able to sneak in,” he said.

READ ALSO: Tourists: What to do if you test positive for Covid in France

But are the new subvariants more severe?

“Based on limited data, there is no evidence of BA.4 and BA.5 being associated with increased infection severity compared to the circulating variants BA.1 and BA.2,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said last week.

But rising cases can result in increasing hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC warned.

Could masks be making a comeback over summer? (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Alain Fischer, who coordinates France’s pandemic vaccine strategy, warned that the country’s hospitalisations had begun to rise, which would likely lead to more intensive care admissions and eventually more deaths.

However, in Germany, virologist Klaus Stohr told the ZDF channel that “nothing dramatic will happen in the intensive care units in hospitals”.

Return of the mask? 

The ECDC called on European countries to “remain vigilant” by maintaining testing and surveillance systems.

“It is expected that additional booster doses will be needed for those groups most at risk of severe disease, in anticipation of future waves,” it added.

Faced with rising cases, last week Italy’s government chose to extend a requirement to wear medical grade FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30.

“I want to continue to recommend protecting yourself by getting a second booster shot,” said Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza, who recently tested positive for Covid.

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Fischer said France had “clearly insufficient vaccination rates” and that a second booster shot was needed.

Germany’s government is waiting on expert advice on June 30 to decide whether to reimpose mandatory mask-wearing rules indoors.

The chairman of the World Medical Association, German doctor Frank Ulrich Montgomery, has recommended a “toolbox” against the Covid wave that includes mask-wearing, vaccination and limiting the number of contacts.