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COVID-19

Swiss tourism rebounding despite Omicron threat

The Swiss tourism sector had a more positive start to the key winter season than had been expected, despite the Omicron variant of Covid-19, the Switzerland Tourism agency said Tuesday.

This photograph taken on December 23, 2021 shows a statue representing the 14th century Swiss folk hero Wilhelm Tell holding his crossbow in silhouette at sunset in Lausanne.
This photograph taken on December 23, 2021 shows a statue representing the 14th century Swiss folk hero Wilhelm Tell holding his crossbow in silhouette at sunset in Lausanne. Tourism is currently on the rebound in the Alpine nation. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

“In comparison with the previous winter holiday season, overnight stays should be up by 10 to 15 percent, with the return of foreign tourists,” the agency said, citing first estimates.

It said the number of overnight stays were at 90 percent of the levels reached in 2019, so “a certain optimism is therefore perceptible”.

Reservations, and cancellations alike, were notably made at short notice, following the ebb and flow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

EXPLAINED: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

However, hoteliers, particularly in the mountains, witnessed a return of European tourists, especially from Germany, France and England, while domestic visitors have remained loyal.

Omicron had Swiss ski resorts rattled in early December when the government imposed 10-day quarantine restrictions on arrivals from countries with the variant of concern.

That included Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands — the three major sources of ski tourists.

Some hotels and ski schools saw their bookings with British customers plunge by 50 percent in 48 hours. But Bern reversed its decision once it was clear that Omicron was already spreading within Switzerland.

Most cases are now due to Omicron. Foreign tourists must now provide proof of a negative Covid test on entry and fill in a passenger locator form.

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The Covid rules you should know if you’re travelling from Switzerland this summer

When it comes to Covid regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe, the situation is certainly much more relaxed than it was last summer. However, certain countries still maintain rules in regards to vaccinations and masks.

The Covid rules you should know if you're travelling from Switzerland this summer

Months ago, health experts predicted that coronavirus will not be circulating extensively during the summer months and won’t strike us again before the weather turns cold in the fall / winter.

But as it turns out, these forecasts were wrong, as Omicron and its highly contagious sub-variants keep infecting increasing numbers of people across Europe.

In Switzerland, the number of reported contaminations has risen from under 10,000 a week in May to 33,108 registered in a span of seven days on June 28, with officials expecting an explosion in cases as summer progresses.

READ MORE: ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

What does this mean for international travel?

As of right now (and the situation could change in coming weeks), Switzerland doesn’t require either testing or proof of vaccination upon entry. This is also the situation in many other countries in Europe as well as farther afield.

However, some popular European tourist destinations still (or again) have Covid-related entry regulations in place, as well as rules inside the country.

This is an overview of the places where people who live in Switzerland like to spend their summer holidays:

France

Entry requirements:

For vaccinated persons, full vaccination for at least one week must be proven. The last dose must be less than nine months old. Cured people can travel a week after receiving a single dose.

For recovered people: the positive result of a PCR test more than 11 days old and less than six months.

For non-vaccinated persons: a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 48 hours before departure. Children under 12 are exempt.

On-site measures:

Wearing a mask on public transport, which has not been required since May 16th, is once again strongly recommended — though not compulsory.

Italy

While proof of vaccination or negative test is not required to enter Italy, there are some mask requirements in place in the country.

From mid-June, Italian government extended the obligation to wear FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30th, except on planes. The surgical mask is also still compulsory from the age of six in health establishments.

Portugal

Proof of full vaccination for at least 14 days is required to enter, with the last dose no older than 270 days ago. Swiss Covid certificates should suffice.

For recovered people, proof of recovery dating from 11 to 180 days before arrival in Portugal is required.

The unvaccinated should have a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 24 hours before departure.

Children under 12 are exempt from these requirements.

Also, all travellers must fill out a passenger locator card before departure, as well as a form required by the Portuguese health authorities before their departure or during the flight.

On-site measures:

Portugal decided on April 21st to end the obligation to wear a mask indoors. However, masks are still required on public transport, hospitals or retirement homes.

These are the regulation for mainland Portugal; those visiting Madeira, can see the rules in this link.

Spain

Since June 2nd, travellers from a Schengen area (which includes Switzerland) are no longer subject to any health checks upon arrival.

On-site measures:

Spain lifted the requirement to wear a mask indoors on April 20th. The mask is, however, still required from the age of six on public transport, in hospitals and retirement homes. Differences may exist between regions, so consult the websites of individual areas.

Austria

Since May 16th, travel restrictions have been lifted. Nevertheless, an FFP2 mask remains compulsory from the age of six for flights to and from the Vienna region.

On-site measures

FFP2 masks are mandatory from the age of 14 on public transport and in pharmacies in Vienna.

Germany

Since June 1st and until at least August 31st, entry restrictions to Germany have all been suspended.

On-site measures:

No vaccination or testing rules on entry, but restrictions remain in some federal states, so check local websites for more information.

Wearing a mask remains compulsory from the age of six on public transport and in medical establishments. To go to the hospital, an antigen test of less than 24 hours or PCR of less than 48 hours is required.

READ MORE: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

United Kingdom

There are no more Covid restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and arrivals no longer need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.

United States

According to the US Embassy in Switzerland, “air travelers to the United States are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, prior to boarding a flight to the United States”.

However, there are different requirements for different categories of travelers: “all non-U.S.-citizen, nonimmigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) airline passengers traveling to the United States, must demonstrate proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S. bound aircraft”.

If you want to find out what the latest requirements are at your destination, you can do so by checking out the websites of their embassies in Switzerland, or official tourist bodies for each country / region.

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