Switzerland closes transit loophole for ‘high risk’ arrivals

Switzerland closes transit loophole for 'high risk' arrivals
Entry and quarantine rules just got tougher. Photo by AFP
In a statement, the Swiss government said it would be no longer possible to "circumvent" entry rules: "the country of departure counts, not the stopover country".

From Monday August 31st, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) indicated it would be toughening its policy on entry into Switzerland and the quarantine requirement. 

What prompted SEM to enforce the new regulations?

The new measures are being implemented because many travellers from “at-risk” countries have been trying to circumvent the entry and quarantine rules by transiting through ‘safe’ nations .

For instance, many travellers from countries that are on the government’s high-risk list, have taken a flight with a stopover in a ‘safe’ nation for which no entry restrictions or quarantine rules exist.

What is different from Monday?

According to SEM, “it will no longer be possible to enter Switzerland from a high-risk country on a transit flight via a non-high-risk country”.

Under the new rules, the airport of departure, not the stopover country, determines the rules of entry into Switzerland.

For instance, people returning to Switzerland from the United States, which is considered to be a high-risk country, can no longer transit through a ‘safe’ nation like Canada or a Schengen state to avoid the quarantine.

READ MORE: Will Switzerland’s compulsory quarantine period be shortened?

By the same token, the country of departure determines whether travellers may enter Switzerland at all.

What about passengers from 'third countries'?

People flying from ‘approved’ areas, including Japan, Australia, and New Zealand, can continue to enter Switzerland, even if they have to change planes in a country on the high-risk list, because no direct flights are available. 

*The only condition is that they do not leave the international transit area in the airport in which they stop over – that they do not actually enter the high-risk country”, SEM said.

“This new regulation aims to prevent people circumventing the entry requirements by travelling through countries not on the high-risk list”, the SEM said.

What is the difference between Switzerland’s two different ‘high-risk’ coronavirus lists?

As The Local explained in an article on August 19th, the first list is primarily intended for foreigners who wish to come to Switzerland — tourists, people who would like to visit relatives in Switzerland, or foreign nationals who are looking for work.

The second one is geared more towards residents of Switzerland who want to travel abroad and need to know what conditions are in place after their return.

As a reminder, travel restrictions are not based on nationality, but on the place of residence. 

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