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NEW: Switzerland announces tougher Covid border rules for travellers

Switzerland announced Friday that all travellers entering the country who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 or recovered from the disease will need proof of a negative test.

NEW: Switzerland announces tougher Covid border rules for travellers
New rules for travellers from abroad will go into effect on Monday. Photo by Zurich Airport

In a press conference on Friday afternoon, Health Minister Alain Berset outlined tighter measures that will be implemented from Monday for travellers arriving in Switzerland from abroad.

Those who have no Covid certificate to prove vaccination or those who cannot show proof of having had the virus and recovered in the past six months will have to show proof of a negative test upon arrival in Switzerland.

Four to seven days later, they will have to undergo another test.

Keep in mind that these rules only apply to arrivals from countries not on the SEM high-risk list. As the United States and United Kingdom are considered high risk, only vaccinated people from those countries can arrive in Switzerland. Click here for more information. 

Bern said the measures were a bid to prevent a spike in cases once people start returning from their autumn vacation, following a surge in Delta variant infections after the summer holidays.

Additionally, everyone arriving in Switzerland, regardless of their vaccination or recovery status, will have to fill out an entry form.

The cantons are required to carry out random checks to verify whether unvaccinated travellers have actually undergone a second test.

Whoever violates these rules will incur a fine of 200 francs for entry without a test certificate and 100 francs for an incomplete form.

More than two million people and one million vehicles cross landlocked Switzerland’s borders every day.

Cross-border workers, travellers in transit, long-haulers, and people living in regions bordering Switzerland will be exempted from these rules, Berset said.

“The new rules are not a panacea but new measures are needed to prevent the health system from being overburdened”, Berset noted.

The measures are not as drastic as one of the other options debated that would require arrivals without a Covid certificate to go into quarantine for 10 days, with people allowed to leave quarantine from the seventh day with a negative test result. 

The new rules will go into effect a week after the general extension of the Covid certificate was implemented in Switzerland to nearly all indoor venues.

READ MORE: TODAY: Switzerland extends Covid certificate for entry to restaurants and bars

Vaccination rates in Switzerland are lagging behind those of its neighbours, with only 53.3 percent of the population fully immunised.

Some 31 percent of intensive care unit beds are filled with Covid-19 patients.

Switzerland now requires people to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test to go into bars and restaurants, cinemas, exhibitions and indoor sporting events.

From Monday, foreign visitors vaccinated abroad with a jab approved by the European Medicines Agency will be able to obtain a Swiss Covid certificate enabling them to enter restaurants and venues.

Protests against measures in Switzerland

The restrictions are unpopular with sections of the Swiss population, and demonstrations — normally rare in Switzerland — are on the increase.

On Thursday evening, some 3,000-4,000 people marched in the capital Bern in opposition to the measures and restrictions.

Some attacked the fence surrounding the Federal Palace, seat of the government and parliament, and the police responded with water cannon and rubber bullets, Swiss news agency ATS reported.

“Anything that is an act of violence is condemned without restriction,” Swiss President Guy Parmelin told a press conference on Friday.

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TRAVEL NEWS

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.

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

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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