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COVID-19

Covid: Will Switzerland restrict arrivals from the UK this winter?

Concerns about the Omicron variant have led several countries to prevent or heavily restrict arrivals from the UK. Will Switzerland follow suit?

A Union Jack - the flag of  the United Kingdom - next to a Swiss flag in Switzerland. Photo: STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP
A Union Jack - the flag of the United Kingdom - next to a Swiss flag in Switzerland. Photo: STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP

On Monday, December 20th, Switzerland put in place a range of new Covid measures in order to reduce contact, encourage vaccination and stop the spread of the virus. 

While several of Switzerland’s neighbours such as Germany and France have put in place restrictions on UK arrivals, Switzerland declined to follow suit. 

Instead, Switzerland effectively relaxed entry measures, saying that antigen (lateral flow) tests would be accepted in addition to PCR tests for all arrivals. 

Travel: What are Switzerland’s new entry requirements?

Currently, UK arrivals have been flocking to Switzerland, particularly ahead of the country’s winter sports season. 

As reported in Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes, the closure of several other European countries to UK residents has seen Switzerland become ever more popular with people from the UK. 

While this is good news for Switzerland’s struggling tourism industry, some UK-based readers have asked us if things are set to change in the coming days. 

Close in their memory was the decision in early December to place an immediate ten-day quarantine on all UK arrivals, which came into immediate effect without any notice for possible arrivals. 

What is the current situation regarding UK entry?  

As it stands, the UK is currently on Switzerland’s ‘high-risk’ list, which is set by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). 

READ MORE: Which countries are on Switzerland’s high-risk list?

Arrivals from countries deemed high risk must be fully vaccinated against Covid in order to enter Switzerland. 

In addition, arrivals must show a negative test. 

For PCR tests this can be up to 72 hours old, or for antigen tests up to 24 hours old. 

Will Switzerland restrict arrivals from the UK?

In addition to the SEM high-risk list, the SEM also has a variant list. 

The list includes several countries where an “immuno-evasive virus variant is spreading that is not yet prevalent in Switzerland”. 

These countries are predominantly from Southern Africa: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. 

UPDATE: Switzerland confirms only vaccinated Americans and Brits can enter

Arrival from these countries is restricted to Swiss citizens and residents. Tourist travel is not allowed. 

With the latest changes coming into effect on Monday, December 20th, it would seem likely that the government would wait to see what the impact of these changes were before putting in any further restrictions. 

Currently (as at December 21st), the Swiss government has no plans to place the UK on this list. 

However, authorities in Germany recently expanded the variant list to include the same southern African countries as well as the UK, meaning such a step is not out of the question. 

Therefore, while there are no indications the list will be expanded, this may change quickly, particularly as the Omicron variant continues to spread throughout the UK. 

Stay tuned to The Local for up-to-date information on the latest travel rules. 

Member comments

  1. The virus variant is already widespread in Europe and in Switzerland. It looks worse in the UK because the UK carries out more testing, so we are not comparing like with like. Closing borders at this stage has zero health benefit but will cause significant economic damage, for a second winter. Surely that’s not a price worth paying?

    1. Finally, someone with some sense. Of course, the fact that these tests also pick up dead virus present in the host long after that person is contagious is conveniently ignored. And no one is admitting that this omicrom variant is little more than a cold. FACT: If you’re over 70, Covid is marginally more lethal than the flu; under 70 marginally less. Is that reason to shut down the entire world? Where does it end? I tell you one thing, these bloody politicians and policy-makers are loving this. Speaks to their egos and gives them a raison d’etre.

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For members

TRAVEL NEWS

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain’s Basel to Berlin line

In early May, German transport provider Flixtrain announced it would begin running services from Basel to Berlin (and back) from June. Here’s what you need to know.

10 francs: Everything you need to know about Flixtrain's Basel to Berlin line

German transport provider Flixtrain has announced it will launch in Switzerland from June 23rd. The low-cost provider is offering 10 franc (10 euro) tickets from Basel to Berlin, among other cheap fares.

The low-cost company, which has been establishing itself Deutsche Bahn’s major competitor Germany over the past few years, runs long distance bus and train services. 

When will the services run?

The lines to and from Basel run from Thursday to Monday, with one connection per day in either direction. 

It will take 8 hours and 45 minutes from Basel Badischer Bahnhof to Berlin Hauptbahnhof. 

A trip with the German ICE will instead take just over 7 hours. 

The new line is part of an expansion of services which is set to include around 70 destinations in Germany. 

OK but will it really cost CHF10?

The price of the ticket grabbed headlines, with Flixtrain saying in its press conference that the almost-nine-hour trip would only cost CHF10 (10 euro). 

Flixtrain spokesperson Sebastian Meyer told Swiss news outlet Watson that tickets would start at CHF10, but more expensive tickets would be available when the CHF10 offerings were sold out. 

“If the cheapest ticket contingent is sold out, the next higher one takes effect. In this way, we can always offer our passengers cheap tickets. Affordable prices are still possible due to the corresponding utilisation of the individual trips.”

In order to get the cheapest possible fare, travellers are advised to book early. 

REVEALED: How to find cheap train tickets in Switzerland

Tickets between Basel and Berlin can cost as high as CHF150 or 160 euros from Switzerland’s SBB or Germany’s Deutsche Bahn respectively, although booking in advance can bring the price down to as low as CHF30. 

Where will the train to (and from) Berlin stop?

In either direction, the train will stop at: Karlsruhe, Baden-Baden, Offenburg, Freiburg, Wiesloch, Bad Hersfeld and Weil am Rhein. 

What else is different about Flixtrain?

Other than being bright lime green, Flixtrains allow you to take your bicycle with you, which is not allowed on most ICE long-distance trains in Germany. 

Are there any other destinations within Switzerland? 

As yet, Basel will be the only Swiss destination. The other two new routes are Stuttgart to Hamburg and Berlin to Weisbaden. 

In addition to the 10 franc (10 euro) ticket from Basel to Berlin, other journeys within Germany will start at 5 francs (5 euros). 

More information is available from Flixtrain at the following link. 

The expanded routes can be seen in the following image. 

A look at Flixtrain’s route network in 2022. Map: Flixtrain

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