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Could Switzerland lift its Covid measures by February 16th?

Although Omicron is still spreading rapidly throughout Switzerland and the number of infections is skyrocketing, the easing of current restrictions is in view.

Will Switzerland end Covid certificate obligation for restaurants and other indoor venues on September 16? Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Will the Covid certificate requirement remain in place anywhere? A illustration picture taken on September 14, 2021 in Lausanne shows a Swiss Covid certificate displayed on a smartphone and a fork and knife, as Switzerland decided to widely extend the obligation of health pass, facing a pandemic of Covid-19 which continues to fill the hospitals and the beds of intensive care and an insufficient rate of vaccination. - From September 13, 2021, it is necessary to show its Covid certificate to enter a restaurant or a bar, enter in an exhibition place, cinema's or a sporting event indoors. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Even as numbers continue to climb, with the record 43,199 cases reported on January 26th, the government is planning to lift most of the remaining Covid measures by mid-February.

Health Minister Alain Berset announced on Friday that quarantine rules for contact cases and obligation to work from home will come to an end from Wednesday, February 2nd, even though the pandemic is not yet over. 

READ MORE: Switzerland to end quarantine and working from home obligation

Also, according to a report in SonntagsZeitung on Sunday, which the newspaper said is based on information received from federal authorities, Covid certificate requirement in indoor venues like restaurants, as well as other places and events where it is currently compulsory, would be abolished on February 16th.

The limit on the number of participants in private settings would also be lifted on that day, according to the report. Only the masks and testing of symptomatic people would reportedly remain compulsory under the plan.

These changes are set to be announced on February 2nd, SonntagsZeitung said, and would be implemented two weeks later, after a consultation with cantons.

Health officials have previously said easing of measures is possible because, while infections are soaring, relatively few Covid patients end up in ICUs, so the healthcare system is not overburdened.

However, Lukas Engelberger, head of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors, sounded the alarm on Sunday against “premature optimism” on the part of the federal government.

“We shouldn’t act too fast and reopen everything at once, but rather in a balanced and staggered way”, he pointed out.

He added that “it is dangerous to prematurely declare the end of the pandemic. It’s important not to let go now, because it’s not over yet”.

READ MORE: ‘Too early to celebrate’: How Omicron is still holding Switzerland in its grip

On the political front opinions about the pace at which measures are lifted vary as well.

The Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which has opposed the Covid certificate and other restrictions, is in favour of the move.

SVP deputy Albert Rösti, president of the Health Commission in the National Council, said the quarantine, working from home requirement and Covid certificate requirement should be “dropped quickly and at the same time”.

However, other parties are calling for a more tempered approach.

For the Centre, the Liberals and Social Democrats, lifting of all measures at once is “too quick”. and should be done gradually.

Liberal MP Andrea Caroni said the government should wait until the Omicron wave wanes before implementing any large-scale changes to current measures.

Philipp Bregy, the Centre’s parliamentary group president, is also calling for gradual easing: “It is clear to us that the first thing to do is to end the work from home and quarantine obligation. But lifting of the certificate requirement should not come before March”.

Roger Nordmann from the Social Democratic Party also favours the gradual approach.

“When we end everything in one fell swoop and then have a setback, it would be totally depressing”, he noted.

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Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

More than two years after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, travel to Switzerland is set to return to normal from May 2nd.

Switzerland to drop vaccine requirement for entry from Monday

Despite winding back all Covid measures domestically on April 1st, Switzerland still required visitors from non-European countries to be vaccinated against Covid. 

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration said on Twitter late in late April that all remaining entry rules would be scrapped from Monday, May 2nd. 

What were the rules? 

Up until May 2nd, visitors from the EU/EFTA zone can enter Switzerland without needing to show a vaccination or a test. Those from outside the bloc however need to show either proof of vaccination or recovery, or fit into other exception categories, including being under 18. 

This created a somewhat contradictory situation where Switzerland has some of the most relaxed rules in Europe domestically, but a stricter entry framework than many of its neighbours. 

‘Travelcheck’: This tool shows you what you need to enter Switzerland

As a consequence, Swiss tourism authorities warned that travellers from outside Europe, particularly those from the United States, China, India and the United Kingdom, are taking their tourist dollars elsewhere. 

The Swiss Tourism Association STV submitted a formal request in March that the laws be changed, saying they had put Switzerland at a disadvantage. 

How do I know which rules apply?

One of the most important elements to consider with regard to Covid entry rules is that the country where you reside rather than your nationality is the most important aspect. 

Therefore, if you are an American living in France under the current rules, you can enter without showing proof of vaccination, as you are considered to be entering from France. 

With rules constantly changing and official sources sometimes slow to keep up, the best way to determine the rules which apply in your specific case is the Swiss government’s ‘Travelcheck’ website. 

This is available here. 

The site will ask you certain questions about your situation, although no personal details are required. 

You will then receive a tailored response with advice on your entry situation. 

An extensive set of FAQs is available on the Swiss government website here