US arrivals in Switzerland no longer required to quarantine

From October 29th, Swiss authorities relaxed quarantine rules, leaving only a handful of countries and regions on its ‘red’ list - the United States is no longer on that list.

US arrivals in Switzerland no longer required to quarantine
There's no quarantine for US arrivals in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

The list was created on July 2nd. Initially, Switzerland based its quarantine requirements on coronavirus infection rates in other countries.

At that time, Switzerland’s infection figures were below those of many other nations, both in Europe and elsewhere. One of the criteria for placing a country on the list was if its infection rate was over 60,000 cases for 100,000 people.

The United States was placed on the list, along with dozens of other countries.

However, as Switzerland’s infection rate now exceeds that of most European and many non-European nations, authorities said it no longer made sense to keep them on the list.

Right now, the only countries whose residents must self-quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in Switzerland are Andorra, Armenia, Belgium, and the Czech Republic, along with the French regions of Hauts-de-France, Île de France, and the overseas territory of French Polynesia.

According the US Embassy in Bern, “as of October 29th, 2020, individuals travelling from the United States are not subject to the mandatory quarantine”.

In other words, if you are a citizen or resident of Switzerland returning from the US, you are no longer required to quarantine. However, travel restrictions for American tourists are still in place.

That’s because Switzerland has two lists of high-risk countries.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why do US citizens in Switzerland give up their American passports 

The first, established by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), 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 United States is on that list.

The second one, created by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), is more geared towards residents of Switzerland who return from abroad. 

But wait, it gets even more complicated.

As mentioned above, residents of the United States can’t enter Switzerland.

However, that doesn’t mean that everyone arriving from the US will be turned away.
Swiss citizens or permanent residents, either living in the US or in Switzerland, can enter any time. And they don’t have to self-quarantine any longer.

Also, US citizens who live in Switzerland or any other 'safe' country that is not on SEM’s or FOPH’s list, will be allowed to come to Switzerland, with no quarantine requirement.
But if they are residents of a state on the quarantine list, they will have to quarantine upon arrival.

In other words, entry into Switzerland and whether or not quarantine is compulsory, is determined by the country of residence, not by one’s passport or nationality.

And there is more.

Say you are an American arriving from the United States.

While tourists and other random visitors are banned from entry, a small group is exempt from this restriction and from the quarantine requirement as well.

According to FOPH they are; essential healthcare workers, business travellers who are coming to Switzerland for an important reason that cannot be postponed, individuals travelling for an urgent medical reason that cannot be delayed, and transit passengers who have spent less than 24 hours in a country or area with an increased risk of infection.

These categories are pretty vague, so it’s best to contact either the Swiss Embassy in the United States or US Embassy in Switzerland to find out whether you qualify under any of these categories and what paperwork you need to present at the border.


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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.