EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

Switzerland relaxed almost all Covid measures on February 17th. From traveling to which measures remain in place, here are your questions answered.

Masks no longer need to be worn in most but not all parts of Switzerland. Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash
Masks no longer need to be worn in most but not all parts of Switzerland. Photo by Michael Jin on Unsplash

The rules for engaging in public life will be less restrictive than for almost two years, after the Swiss government decided to relax Covid rules from February 17th onwards. 

ANALYSIS: Switzerland ends most Covid restrictions — but what’s next?

In making the announcement on Wednesday, February 16th, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said “from midnight, you will no longer need a Covid certificate”. 

Which measures are being relaxed? 

Almost all Covid measures are being relaxed from Thursday, February 17th. 

Covid certificates – which show someone has been vaccinated, recovered or in some cases has tested negative – will no longer be required in restaurants, cinemas or at events. 

Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace, while they will continue to be required in public transport and in hospitals for the meantime. 

Restrictions on private events will be relaxed. 

All Covid-related border restrictions will also be relaxed from Thursday. 

The recommendation to work from home has also been relaxed, which may have consequences for cross-border workers. 

Switzerland: Cross-border workers may be penalised for working from home

The Swiss government will also no longer cover the costs of Covid testing in most cases, other than for “healthcare and socio-medical institutions”, or in companies that form a part of Switzerland’s “critical infrastructure”. 

School testing will remain funded until March. 

Payments for those who have lost earnings due to the pandemic and the subsequent measures will cease as of Thursday, February 17th. 

More information about the changes can be seen at the following link. 

UPDATE: Switzerland to scrap Covid certificate and most mask rules

What measures are still in effect? 

Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace, while they will continue to be required in public transport for the meantime. 

Berset said the continuation of this rule was justified as while people can avoid shopping – even supermarket shopping – this was not the case with public transport. 

“You can avoid shopping, for example with online shopping or by adjusting the time you go shopping. This is not the case in public transport,” he told the press on Wednesday. 

The government said this will be maintained in the meantime, but may be relaxed in the future as the situation allows it. 

Another measure which will remain in place is the isolation requirement for those who have tested positive. 

Anyone who has tested positive in Switzerland is required to isolate for five days. 

While Berset said this looks to be relaxed at the end of March, it was still important to stop the spread of the virus. 

“Anyone who has tested positive is very contagious in the short term… The most contagious people can be taken out of circulation in this way.”

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said the isolation measure reflected solidarity in broader society. 

“You also stay at home when you are sick. Society demands that people stay at home when they are sick,” he said

Switzerland has registered more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases and over 12,500 deaths during the pandemic and currently has a vaccination rate of 70 percent.

Should I delete my Covid certificate app?

One thing the pandemic should have taught us all is that nothing is forever, so while the act of deleting your Covid certificate app might feel good, it is probably unwise at this stage. 

Keep in mind that if you delete your Covid certificate app, the proof of vaccination or recovery contained within will also be deleted – and you will be unable to get it back. 

Covid certificates – which show someone has been vaccinated, recovered or in some cases has tested negative – will no longer be required in restaurants, cinemas or at events in Switzerland. 

They may however be necessary for travel abroad. 

Covid certificates can also be issued for the purposes of travel abroad and visiting the EU, the government confirmed on Wednesday.

Existing Covid certificates remain valid for international travel and the EU, provided the underlying reason for the certificate is valid (vaccination, recovery or negative test). 

Covid certificates can however be required by the cantons, under the new framework. 

While Swiss media has previously reported that several cantons want to keep the certificate in place in some instances – for example in relation to night-clubs or large events – Berset clarified on Wednesday that while some cantons had argued for this as part of the consultation process (i.e. on a federal level), they would most likely not unilaterally keep the rule in place. 

Can private companies or organisations still require people to show a Covid certificate? 

Yes. Organisations and private companies, for instance nursing homes, nightclubs or bars may continue to demand Covid certificates to protect the health of their patients and patrons. 

This can also happen in state institutions – for instance hospitals – provided this is approved of by the canton. 

What do these changes mean for entry into Switzerland? 

All Covid related entry rules will be relaxed from Thursday, February 17th, onwards. 

“It will no longer be necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form” the government wrote. 

There are currently no countries on the ‘virus variant of concern’ list, although this may change if another mutation is detected. 

It is important to note that this purely relates to Covid-related border measures. It also only relates to arrivals from Europe. Arriving from outside the EU/EFTA will require additional steps. Please check out the link below for more information. 

Other restrictions on entering Switzerland, i.e. the requirement to be granted a visa or due to specific bans placed on individuals and nationalities, will remain in place. 

EXPLAINED: Who can enter Switzerland right now and what are the rules?

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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