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Will Switzerland place the UK back on its quarantine list due to the Indian variant?

Swiss authorities removed the Great Britain from its mandatory quarantine list on March 24th. But what will happen now, when the Indian coronavirus variant is spreading through the country?

Will Switzerland place the UK back on its quarantine list due to the Indian variant?
So far, flights from Britain arer allowed in Switzerland and quarantine requirement is not in place. DANIEL SLIM / AFP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday that the proliferation of this variant jeopardises his government’s plans for a complete lift of pandemic restrictions in June.

This situation is prompting some Swiss politicians to call for the re-introduction of travel bans on flights from the UK, as was the case when the British variant was first detected in Switzerland in December.

“We mustn’t have any reservations when it comes to entry restrictions,” said Lorenz Hess, a MP from The Conservative Democratic Party of Switzerland.

He is demanding that the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) adjust the quarantine regulations for arrivals from Great Britain.

 “It would be fatal if we were paralysed shortly before the next opening steps because of the Indian variant. The success of the vaccination campaign in Switzerland must not be jeopardised”.

Another deputy, Yvonne Feri from the Social Democratic Party, is also calling on FOPH to “closely monitor the situation” in the UK and to impose entry regulations for travellers from that country.

Model calculations by the Federal Polytechnic Institute in Zurich show that while the Indian variant currently accounts for around 5 percent of all samples examined in Switzerland, the Covid-19 Task Force expects that this mutation will replace the other variants and account for 100 percent of new infections by the summer.

“There are indications that the Indian virus mutation is transmitted even faster than the British one”, said Basel cantonal doctor Thomas Steffen. “It is currently being discussed whether the human immune system reacts less strongly to this variant.”

The good news is that the two vaccines administered in Switzerland — Pfizer / Biontech and Moderna — are believed to be effective against the new mutation.

“Even if the vaccines do not completely match the Indian variant, protection against severe infections can still be expected,” Steffen said.

Jürg Utzinger, director of the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, is also optimistic about the vaccine’s ability to counteract the Indian mutation.

“If we can continue vaccinating like this, the risk of the infection process in Switzerland getting out of hand again is low”, he said.

And thanks to the rapid progress in vaccination, Utzinger does not believe that the Federal Council’s opening plans are currently in jeopardy.

READ MORE: Switzerland places India on quarantine list effective immediately

As far as placing the UK on the quarantine list, FOPH has not made any announcements to this effect to date.

But while FOPH has placed India on its quarantine list on April 26th — two days after the first case of the Indian variant was detected in Switzerland — Swiss authorities have not suspended flights from India altogether.

READ MORE: What are the rules for travelling from India to Switzerland?

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Switzerland to cut quarantine period for vaccinated and extend current measures

Switzerland will shorten the obligatory quarantine for anyone testing positive for Covid to five days, while extending the current measures until at least March. The duration of immunity for the Covid certificate will also be shortened.

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)
Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset gestures during a press conference.. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Switzerland on Wednesday announced a range of changes to the existing Covid measures. 

As had been widely reported ahead of the announcement, the Covid quarantine period for positive cases was shortened from the current ten days to five for vaccinated and recovered people. 

People can leave quarantine after five days, provided they are symptom free for 48 hours. Based on the new advice, it does not appear a person needs to test negative – although the government has been contacted for a confirmation on this question. 

EXPLAINED: Why did Switzerland relax Covid quarantine rules?

The quarantine change applies both to people who have tested positive and those who have had close contact with someone who has tested positive. 

“Close contact” will also be redefined. Now it will not include everyone someone with Covid has had contact with, but will be limited to the people they live with and people who had “regular and close” contact with a person who tested positive. 

The close contact quarantine will not apply to people who have had a booster in the past four months, but it will apply to those who have had two doses.

The unvaccinated will need to remain in quarantine for the original ten days. 

Cantons can decide to grant exemption to the quarantine rules. 

The duration of immunity under the rules of Switzerland’s Covid certificate will be reduced from one year to 270 days, i.e. nine months.

This is due to the belief that immunity due either to vaccination or recovery declines earlier than previously thought. 

The 270-day requirement applies to those who are fully vaccinated or to people who have previously had the virus.

This shortening of the time period for the validity of the Covid certificate will apply from February 1st, as with the EU’s rules for international travel. 

The current Covid measures, which are outlined in the link below, will also be extended. 

EXPLAINED: What are Switzerland’s current Covid measures?

While they were set to expire on January 24th, they will now be extended until March 31st. 

The government said the extension was necessary due to the situation in the country’s hospitals. 

Amid skyrocketing infection rates, the Swiss government said it had prepared additional measures which could be implemented quickly and immediately if the situation required it. 

“Should the situation in hospitals deteriorate significantly, the Federal Council can still act swiftly by imposing stricter measures such as the closure of facilities and institutions or by limiting capacity at large-scale events, regardless of the consultation,” the government said in a press release

The government is currently in consultation with experts and the cantons about these and further measures, including tighter mask rules and a change in testing rules.

This consultation will last until the 17th of January, however those listed here are expected to apply. 

For the full list of changes announced you can visit the government site HERE.