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COVID-19 ALERT

EXPLAINED: What are the announced changes to Switzerland’s Covid measures

Switzerland has announced an extension of some Covid measures on Wednesday, while others have been relaxed including for vaccinated travellers arriving in the country.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset walks past a poster reminding people to wear masks. Switzerland will decide on further Covid measures on Wednesday. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset walks past a poster reminding people to wear masks. Switzerland will decide on further Covid measures on Wednesday. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

On Wednesday, January 19th, the Swiss government announced a range of changes in the way the country is handling the Covid pandemic. 

Many of the existing Covid measures were extended, while there have been changes in testing and quarantine rules. 

Further easing of Covid measures will next be discussed by the government on February 2nd. 

Covid in Switzerland: ‘It is possible that we’ve reached the peak’

Extension of measures until end of February

The government decided to extend the measures currently in force, such as the 2G regulations and the obligation to work from home

All measures have been extended until the end of March, other than the working from home obligation which will expire at the end of February. 

Quarantine

Last week, the Federal Council shortened the duration of quarantine and isolation to five days.

While two-thirds of the cantons wanted to abolish the preventive quarantine for contact cases altogether, the government decided it would be extended until the end of February. 

“The quarantine therefore makes an important contribution to preventing people from spreading the virus, for example at work,” the government said in a press release

READ MORE: Should Switzerland abolish quarantines and roll back testing for Covid-19?

Certificate validity

The Federal Council also announced a reduction of the validity period of the certificate for vaccinated and recovered people from 365 to 270 days.

This would allow Switzerland to align with European Union’s rules and ensure that the Swiss certificate is accepted in the EU, which is essential for travel.

Testing on entry

People arriving in Switzerland will not need to show negative tests on entry from January 22nd onwards, provided they are vaccinated or recently recovered. 

Unvaccinated and unrecovered people will still need to provide a test on entry. 

In effect, this means that the 3G rule applies to all entering Switzerland. 

The entry form rules have also been relaxed, with only those arriving on planes or long-distance buses needing to fill out the form. 

READ MORE: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland

PCR testing priority

A shortage of PCR tests in Switzerland has led to a change in the way these tests are prioritised. 

This is done by a step-by-step prioritisation, as laid out by the Federal Council below.

“Due to the high demand for tests and stretched laboratory capacity, the Federal Office of Public Health will recommend to the cantons a new list to prioritise the handling of PCR tests:

1. People at high risk with symptoms or who have had contact with someone who has tested positive

2. Pool tests in healthcare institutions (hospitals and clinics, retirement and care homes)

3. Pool tests in critical infrastructures (defined by the cantons)

4. Tests of people with symptoms (also possible using rapid antigen tests)

5. Pool tests at schools

6. Pool tests in the workplace

7. Tests for professional or private travel (if PCR test required)

8. Tests upon request (to obtain a test certificate)

In order to further relieve pressure on PCR testing capacities, it will be possible on a temporary basis from 24 January to obtain a Swiss certificate proving recovery from COVID-19 based on a positive rapid antigen test. This will then be valid for 270 days and only in Switzerland.”

Antigen testing now valid for recovery

Due to the PCR test shortage, people who test positive on an antigen test will now be entitled to a Swiss Covid certificate (for 270 days). 

Previously, this needed to be a PCR test. Self-tests do not apply, i.e. the antigen test must be done at a pharmacy, hospital or other testing facility. 

Further tightening or loosening of measures

Although the Federal Council said it would order stricter measures, including closings, quickly if the hospitals and intensive care units become saturated, for the moment such drastic measures are not on the horizon.

Further easing or tightening of Covid measures will next be discussed by the government on February 2nd. 

READ MORE: Swiss government: Omicron may be ‘beginning of the end’ of pandemic

Member comments

  1. The measures introduced before Christmas were mostly introduced because of dr. Tanja Standler’s faulty modeling. If she has she any scientific honestly left (which I honestly doubt), she should make an immediate call for them to be lifted.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.”

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