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COVID-19

UPDATE: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

Switzerland has again updated its entry rules. Here’s what you need to know.

A no entry sign in the middle of the forest
Switzerland has again updated its entry rules. Here's what you need to know. Photo by Stanislav Kondratiev from Pexels

PLEASE NOTE: Switzerland on Friday announced it would be scrapping the quarantine requirement for all arrivals, effective Saturday, December 4th. Please click here for more information. 

Ahead of the coming winter and due largely to concern surrounding the new Omicron variant, Switzerland has again tightened border rules. However, contrary to some media reports, a quarantine “for all arrivals” has not been put in place

Depending on where you are coming in from – and of course on your citizenship or residency status – you may be required to quarantine or even be prevented from entering Switzerland completely. 

If you’re landing in one of Switzerland’s ‘border airports’ – i.e. those which serve more than one country like Basel and Geneva – then read this guide for specific information

Everyone entering Switzerland will need to fill out the entry form.

READ MORE: Here is the form you need to enter Switzerland

What are the current rules for entering Switzerland? 

Switzerland’s entry rules often cause confusion because entry is regulated by two different government departments: the Federal Office of Public Health and the State Secretariat for Migration. 

These two departments each have a list of countries deemed ‘high risk’, although the exact consequences of being on these lists differs. 

One, prepared by the Federal Office of Public Health and available here, lists countries with a variant of concern. Entry from countries on that list requires a ten-day quarantine, even if you are vaccinated and even if you are a Swiss citizen or resident.

The full list of countries on this list has changed on a daily basis in end November and is laid out in depth below. 

The other list, prepared by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), covers high-risk countries from which entry is not possible, unless you are a Swiss citizen or resident. The United Kingdom is not on this list. 

The SEM list is as follows: Botswana, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

There are a number of exceptions to the rules, for instance for transit or if you work to maintain public order. These are listed here. 

I’m confused about the lists – what does it all mean? 

The rules are certainly confusing – which is not helped by the two lists. 

Put simply, the SEM (State Secretariat for Migration) does not decide quarantine rules, but decides only who can and cannot enter Switzerland.

The FOPH (Federal Office of Public Health) does not decide who can and cannot enter, but decides whether quarantine rules apply, and other measures such as testing. 

The SEM list does not apply to you if you are a Swiss citizen, a Swiss resident or a resident of the Schengen/EFTA zone. I.e. here, your citizenship or residency status matters more than where you are entering from. 

The FOPH list applies to you regardless of where you are from and is determined on the basis of where you are entering from, regardless of citizenship. 

The following graphic from the Swiss government illustrates how this works. 

What about vaccinated and unvaccinated people? 

Generally speaking, greater restrictions apply to vaccinated people than to unvaccinated people re: entering Switzerland. 

Unvaccinated people from outside the Schengen/EFTA states and a handful of other ‘safe’ states on specific list (yes, another, different list which is available here) will not be allowed to enter Switzerland.

This includes the United States and the United Kingdom. More information is available at this link. 

Who is on the ‘variant of concern’ list?

There are approximately two dozen countries on the variant of concern list. Arriving from any country on this list – which means being in one of these countries for the ten days prior to entry – requires a mandatory quarantine regardless of vaccination or residency/citizenship status. 

The list as at November 30 is: Angola, Australia, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, the Netherlands, Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Zambia and Zimbabwe.  

The full list of stipulations is illustrated below. 

Image: FOPH

Image: FOPH

Click here for official government information. 

Are there any exceptions? 

One major exception to be aware of is transit. If you land in Switzerland and plan to transit to another country – either by land or by air – you will not have to quarantine in Switzerland (although you still need to fill out the entry form).

More on that is available in the following report.

EXPLAINED: Can travellers land in Switzerland and transit elsewhere under new rules?

How has this changed over time? 

The first countries were added to the list on Friday, November 26th, including Belgium, Botswana, Eswatini, Hong Kong, Israel, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

Czech Republic, Egypt, Malawi, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom were added on Saturday. 

READ MORE: Switzerland imposes quarantine on all arrivals from UK

Switzerland on Monday added another four including Angola, Australia, Denmark and Zambia. 

On Tuesday, Switzerland added Portugal, Canada, Nigeria and Japan.

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COVID-19

‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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