What to expect if you’re traveling in Switzerland over Easter
For the first time in over two years, Easter will be celebrated as it had been before Covid struck — with no masks or other restrictions. This is what you should expect if you are travelling to or from Switzerland from Friday onward.
You wouldn’t necessarily know it’s springtime when you look out the window, but Easter is just around the corner, even if the weather took a turn for the worse.
And this year, at long last, you can celebrate this holiday in Switzerland as though it is 2019 all over again.
On April 1st, all Covid rules that had been put into place over the last two years were scrapped.
Well, almost all rules
One that remains intact relates to travel
While tourists from the EU (as well as Swiss nationals and permanent residents returning to Switzerland from abroad) can enter the country without any further pandemic-related measures, entry restrictions for third-country nationals remain in force unchanged.
This means only fully vaccinated travellers or those who recovered from Covid can come to Switzerland from outside Europe.
The reason is because Switzerland doesn't have its own entry rules but adheres to those in force in the Schengen area.
"As a Schengen-associated country, Switzerland therefore follows the recommendations of the EU and acts in association with the other Schengen states", Anne Césard, a spokesperson for the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) told The Local on Thursday.
You can check current travel regulations for your country here.
Covid? What Covid?
Even though the pandemic may not be forgotten anytime soon, the long-awaited transition back to normality is a welcome last step of the relaxation process that began on February 17th.
If you arrive in Switzerland on or after April 1st, it will be like Covid never happened.
This is what you can expect:
No Covid certificate
The certificate is no longer compulsory for accessing restaurants, bars, cultural activities, sports facilities, or any other indoor venues.
However, you may still need it to return to your own country.
No masks, anywhere
The obligation to wear masks in shops, on public transport, and all other indoor venues, has been dropped.
And while it is no longer mandatory in health establishments, individual healthcare facilities like hospitals or elderly care homes can require that staff and visitors wear a mask on their premises to protect vulnerable people.
This means you can go pretty much everywhere in Switzerland without a mask now.
No limit on private gatherings
Different rules were in place at different times during the pandemic in regards to the number of people allowed to get together.
But now there is no limit on how many people are authorised together in a group .
No isolation for infected individuals
Whether this is a sound decision or not is debatable. But as things stand, people who test positive to coronavirus are no longer required to isolate for five days — or at all, for that matter.
However, just because something is allowed doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be cautious, for your sake and others’.
If you happen to get infected while in Switzerland, you should avoid transmitting the virus to others. In case you don’t want to stay indoors, you should at least wear a mask when out and about. No obligation — just common sense and personal responsibility.
Does it all mean Covid pandemic is finished in Switzerland from April 1st?
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said on Wednesday that “we are in a good situation… the bad phase of the crisis is over”.
Make of it what you will — and most people certainly want to believe this is true — but a number epidemiologists have said coronavirus is still circulating among the population and will continue to do so.
The latest strain, Omicron, and its sub-variant, the BA.2, are highly contagious but their symptoms are mild in most people.
It is a view of most health experts that we should expect the resurgence and possibly new variants in the fall and throughout winter months, as had been the case in previous waves.
For now, however, life is back to normal, and Easter in Switzerland looks to be merry and bright (sorry, wrong holiday).
This is what you should know if you are travelling into or out of Switzerland
To state it simply and succinctly: expect crowds!
If you travel by air, you will find long queues and longer-than-average wait times. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 70,000 passengers are expected at Zurich airport on each of these days, and 50,000 are predicted to pass through Geneva.
More people are also on the motorways.
Around the Gothard tunnel, "traffic should intensify strongly on Thursday", according to motoring organisation Touring Club Suisse (TCS), which says bottlenecks should start early in the morning on the northern slope of the Alps.
The Federal Roads Office (ASTRA) also warns that Easter travellers "should expect to wait in queues, especially at the northern portal of the Gotthard road tunnel”
These routes will experience particularly heavy traffic and bottlenecks, according to ASTRA:
- Spiez – Kandersteg
- Gampel – Goppenstein
- Brunnen – Flüelen
- Raron – Brig
- Bellinzona – Locarno
- Sections of various main roads in the Bernese Oberland, Graubünden and the Valais side valleys.
ASTRA published a map showing where most bottlenecks are expected.