EXPLAINED: Why does Switzerland want to end Covid restrictions?

Switzerland said Wednesday that the pandemic phase of Covid-19 could soon be over as it ditched some restrictions and mulled lifting all remaining curbs in mid-February.

Swiss president Ignazio Cassis deep in thought
Swiss president Ignazio Cassis said "today is a beautiful day" when announcing an end to Covid restrictions. Photo: ALEX BRANDON / POOL / AFP

The government dropped its work-from-home order and scrapped the quarantine requirement for Covid contacts, despite case numbers soaring.

READ MORE: Switzerland announces plans to relax all Covid measures

“There are increasing signs that the acute crisis will soon be over and the endemic phase could begin,” it said in a statement.

“The moment has come to once again ease measures designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.”

The upbeat tone came despite Switzerland seeing sustained record infection numbers.

More than 40,000 new cases were registered in the past 24 hours, while nearly 2.3 million positive tests have been recorded overall in the wealthy Alpine nation of 8.6 million people.

But the government stressed that hospitals were not over-burdened, likely due to broad immunity through vaccinations and natural infections.

Travel: Switzerland proposes end to Covid entry rules

The government therefore downgraded the work-from-home order to a recommendation, although masks remain mandatory in the workplace.

It also decided to drop quarantine requirements for contacts of Covid cases, though people who test positive for the disease still need to isolate.

Bern said it was considering lifting all remaining restrictions — as Copenhagen did on Tuesday — with a decision expected on February 16.

But the World Health Organization warned Tuesday it was premature to declare victory over Covid or surrender to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

The Swiss are considering dropping all remaining measures in one go on February 17.

The government acknowledged this posed an “epidemiological risk”, and said it can only be done if the current fifth wave of infections starts to decline.

The move would mean no more Covid passes to enter restaurants, events and cultural venues, and the end of mandatory masks on public transport, in shops and indoor public settings.

But if all the restrictions are not dropped at once, they will be in two stages, with the Covid pass and limits on private gatherings the first to go.

“Of course the pandemic is not over but we see light on the horizon,” President Ignazio Cassis told a press conference.

“The end of the crisis does not mean the end of the virus… We must learn to live with it.”

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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