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Why Switzerland will not be celebrating a Covid-19 ‘Freedom Day’

Switzerland looks set to relax a range of Covid measures, although anyone hoping for a UK-style ‘Freedom Day’ looks set to be disappointed.

Swiss Interior and health Minister Alain Berset. Image: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
Swiss Interior and health Minister Alain Berset says he doesn't like the sound of "freedom day". Image: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

From Wednesday, February 2nd, Switzerland is set to relax a range of Covid measures including the quarantine rules and the working from home obligation. 

On the same day, the government will meet to discuss a further relaxation of Covid measures which could include no longer requiring Covid certificates in cafes and restaurants. 

UPDATE: Swiss to end quarantine and working from home obligation from Wednesday

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset announced the change at a press conference on Friday, January 28th. 

“We are in a good situation today. We can take steps forward” Berset said. 

The announcement comes despite Switzerland continually hitting record numbers of new Covid infections over the past few weeks.

Fortunately, hospitalisations and ICU admissions remain low, which experts believe is due to the less virulent nature of the Omicron variant, which now accounts for 90 percent of new infections. 

READ MORE: Covid: One in ten Swiss infected in past week

No ‘freedom day’ for Switzerland

Berset however said he wanted to avoid the term ‘Freedom Day’ for February 2nd.

The term, which has been used in the United Kingdom, has been favoured by several Swiss politicians, particularly on the conservative end of the political spectrum. 

Towards the end of January, representatives from the hospitality and tourism industries called for the term to be used widely to describe Switzerland’s emergence from the pandemic. 

Berset however said he was not in favour of the term and would not be using it, even as measures were relaxed. 

“It’s a warlike expression, other countries have thrown it around, not Switzerland.”

“It could be a happy day. Or happy days,” said Berset.

When asked about whether this signalled an end of the pandemic, Berset said he was cautiously optimistic

“Something can always happen. But the prospects are good.”

“Measures that are no longer of much use today because the situation has changed must of course be rescinded.

“The Federal Council has always said that the measures are not there to stay.

“Many didn’t believe us, but it was the truth. The measures are only there to create a good situation for our country.”

Berset also said there were no plans to get rid of the Covid certificate requirement at this stage. 

“The obligation to obtain a certificate applies worldwide. Being able to travel is also a certain form of freedom.”

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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