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.
People arriving in Switzerland will not need to show negative tests on entry from January 22nd onwards, provided they are vaccinated or recovered from the virus.
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.
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.
The Swiss Tourism Federation called the change in entry rules a “relief” for the industry, with the cost of tests having put the Alpine nation at a disadvantage compared to other major winter sports holiday destinations.
“A strict entry regime makes little sense at present, given that the Omicron virus variant has a much higher incidence in Switzerland” than in the main countries where its ski tourists come from.
Switzerland is battling a fifth wave of the pandemic but Health Minister Alain Berset refused to speculate on whether the peak had passed.
“We hope so, but we don’t know so. We have to remain modest and careful,” he said.
The requirement to work from home was extended until the end of February, while restrictions for indoor settings will apply until the end of March.
And from February 1, the validity of vaccination certificates will be reduced from 12 to nine months, in line with surrounding EU nations.
Switzerland, population 8.6 million, has registered more than 12,000 deaths in the pandemic and nearly 1.8 million cases.
Case rates in Switzerland have been higher than in the EU, and another 38,000 new infections were announced Wednesday.
68 percent of the Swiss population are double-vaccinated and 35 percent have had a booster dose.