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Reader question: Do flights to and from Switzerland require face masks?

Face masks to curb the spread of Covid have been largely phased out in Switzerland, although they are still required on some international flights. Here’s what you need to know.

Are phones still required on flights to and from Switzerland? Photo by Elly Johnson on Unsplash
Are phones still required on flights to and from Switzerland? Photo by Elly Johnson on Unsplash

Just over two years after the pandemic, the requirement to wear a Covid mask disappeared in Switzerland, almost as quickly as it was put in place. 

Masks had been compulsory in indoor public spaces in Switzerland since October 29th, 2020 until February 17th of this year, when the mask requirement was lifted except for public transport and health establishments.

And from April 1st, masks don’t have to be worn in any publicly-accessible places.

Travel

As travellers would be aware, Switzerland’s relaxed attitude to masks and other Covid measures is not replicated everywhere, with masks required on trains and on planes heading outside of Switzerland despite the April 1st change. 

Rules were however further relaxed at a European level in May. 

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

READ MORE: Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

While Switzerland is not an EU member, it is surrounded by EU countries and frequently takes part in EU alliances. 

What is the current rule as at end of May, 2022? 

At present, while rules have been relaxed at a European level, countries are free to put them in place domestically where they see fit. 

In that case, the rules of the destination country must be followed on flights. 

As Switzerland does not require masks, Swiss-bound flights will not have a mask mandate in place. 

Flying outward from Switzerland however may be different, depending on the rules in place in your destination country. 

On May 24th, Swiss news outlet Blick reported that Swiss airlines had not been asking passengers to wear masks on flights to Germany, despite Germany having a mask mandate in place. 

The German Infection Protection Act requires masks on all flights that land in Germany and is in place until September 23rd. 

Flights to France do not require masks, although flights to common tourist destinations like Spain and Greece will have mask rules in place. 

Italy, another popular holiday destination, requires FFP2 masks to be worn until June 15th at the earliest. 

Individual airlines also often have rules for masks in place. While Ryan Air has dropped most mask rules (other than those put in place by national regulatory systems), Easy Jet still requires masks on most journeys. 

Occasionally, individual airports can also have certain rules in place, so be sure to prepare for all possibilities and contact your airline for greater clarity.  

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DISCOVER SWITZERLAND

IN PICTURES: Swiss push for destruction of ‘eyesore’ abandoned ski resorts

In a remote, secluded valley in the Swiss Alps, a line of rusty ski lift masts scar the grassy hillside where cows lazily graze.

IN PICTURES: Swiss push for destruction of ‘eyesore’ abandoned ski resorts

The lifts at the once bustling Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland’s southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, stopped running in 2010.

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland's southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland’s southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Since the local company that ran the small station folded, the infrastructure and facilities have been left as a disintegrating blemish on the Alpine landscape.

“Frankly, I would like to see them destroy it, raze it,” former resort director Claude Lattion acknowledged to AFP.

“You arrive from Italy over the Great Saint Bernard Pass and see this,” he said, nodding towards the graffiti-covered ruins and piles of broken glass that once housed the restaurant and ski lift departure station.

With its spectacular mountain landscapes and pristine slopes, Switzerland draws winter sports fans and tourists from around the world.

Former resort director Claude Lattion poses in the ruins of the departure gondola lift station of Super Saint-Bernard ski resort. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Former resort director Claude Lattion poses in the ruins of the departure gondola lift station of Super Saint-Bernard ski resort. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

But in recent years, shortages of snow and especially of money have seen many of its smaller, local stations struggle to keep their ski lifts running.

At least 14 out of 2,433 are currently out of order, according to the Federal Office of Transport. 

Snow business: How to find a job in winter sports in Switzerland

‘Eyesore’ 

Swiss law requires resort owners to pay for the cost of dismantling abandoned ski lifts.

But the situation is more complicated when resorts file for bankruptcy, as Super Saint Bernard has done.

Discussions about whether a buyer can be found, or if regional or local authorities should foot the bill, can drag on for years.

In the small neighbouring village of Bourg-Saint-Pierre, mayor Gilbert Tornare said several solutions have been examined “to get rid of this eyesore”.

But the cost is too steep for the community of just 200 people, he said.

The lifts at the Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland haven't run since 2010. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The lifts at the Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland haven’t run since 2010. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In all, up to two million Swiss francs ($2.1 million) will be needed to dismantle the station, removing the ski lift masts and decontaminating a site that stretches up to an altitude of 2,800 metres (9,200 feet).

Wallis canton, meanwhile, has suggested using army conscripts for the job to limit the cost.

The case illustrates the chronic difficulties facing smaller ski stations across Switzerland.

For resorts with fewer than 100,000 skiers a year, it is “difficult to turn a profit”, Swiss tourism expert Laurent Vanat told AFP.

Super Saint Bernard, which only had around 20 kilometres (12.4 miles) of slopes and was hampered by its remote location, far from the nearest village, was drawing only about 20,000 skiers per season before it closed.

The Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland's southern Wallis canton, near the Italian border, has been abandoned since 2010. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The abandoned Super Saint Bernard ski resort in Switzerland. Photo: Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

New use?

While the high-altitude station typically sees plenty of snow, other small resorts are being hit by the impact of climate change, which has left the white gold in short supply.

Watching his two dogs sniff around the wreckage of the business he once ran, Lattion said he would have liked to see Super Saint Bernard “put to new use”.

One young local entrepreneur wants to do just that and has proposed creating a hotel reachable by a small cable car.

Two unprepared slopes could be used in winter, while plenty of paths are available for summer hikes, offering a softer approach to mountain tourism than the one driven by the large resorts.

But their plan has been stalled for five years, with a controversial wind farm plan blocking all public financing for new ski projects in the area.

Rebuilding a ski station, Lattion acknowledged, “is not really in the spirit of the times”.

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