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Covid-19: What are Switzerland’s new relaxed entry rules?

Covid rules for entering Switzerland, including testing, have been relaxed. Here's what you need to know.

Planes on the tarmac at Geneva Airport.
Commercial planes of Swiss airline and low cost airline EasyJet are seen parked due to flight interruption amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus on late May 29, 2020 at Geneva Airport. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

NOTE: Switzerland updated its travel rules on February 17th, removing all Covid-related restrictions. Click here for more information. 

On Wednesday, January 19th, the Swiss government announced a range of changes in the way the country is handling the Covid pandemic. 

Many of the existing Covid measures were extended, while there have been changes in testing and quarantine rules. 

Further easing of Covid measures will next be discussed by the government on February 2nd. 

READ MORE: Switzerland extends Covid measures

Testing

People arriving in Switzerland will not need to show negative tests on entry from January 22nd onwards, provided they are vaccinated or recovered from the virus. 

Unvaccinated and unrecovered people will still need to provide a test on entry. 

In effect, this means that the 3G rule applies to all entering Switzerland. 

The entry form rules have also been relaxed, with only those arriving on planes or long-distance buses needing to fill out the form. 

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

PCR testing priority

A shortage of PCR tests in Switzerland has led to a change in the way these tests are prioritised. 

This is done by a step-by-step prioritisation, as laid out by the Federal Council below.

“Due to the high demand for tests and stretched laboratory capacity, the Federal Office of Public Health will recommend to the cantons a new list to prioritise the handling of PCR tests:

1. People at high risk with symptoms or who have had contact with someone who has tested positive

2. Pool tests in healthcare institutions (hospitals and clinics, retirement and care homes)

3. Pool tests in critical infrastructures (defined by the cantons)

4. Tests of people with symptoms (also possible using rapid antigen tests)

5. Pool tests at schools

6. Pool tests in the workplace

7. Tests for professional or private travel (if PCR test required)

8. Tests upon request (to obtain a test certificate)

In order to further relieve pressure on PCR testing capacities, it will be possible on a temporary basis from 24 January to obtain a Swiss certificate proving recovery from COVID-19 based on a positive rapid antigen test. This will then be valid for 270 days and only in Switzerland.”

Antigen testing now valid for recovery

Due to the PCR test shortage, people who test positive on an antigen test will now be entitled to a Swiss Covid certificate (for 270 days). 

Previously, this needed to be a PCR test. Self-tests do not apply, i.e. the antigen test must be done at a pharmacy, hospital or other testing facility. 

‘A relief’

The Swiss Tourism Federation called the change in entry rules a “relief” for the industry, with the cost of tests having put the Alpine nation at a disadvantage compared to other major winter sports holiday destinations.

“A strict entry regime makes little sense at present, given that the Omicron virus variant has a much higher incidence in Switzerland” than in the main countries where its ski tourists come from.

Switzerland is battling a fifth wave of the pandemic but Health Minister Alain Berset refused to speculate on whether the peak had passed.

“We hope so, but we don’t know so. We have to remain modest and careful,” he said.

The requirement to work from home was extended until the end of February, while restrictions for indoor settings will apply until the end of March.

And from February 1, the validity of vaccination certificates will be reduced from 12 to nine months, in line with surrounding EU nations.

Switzerland, population 8.6 million, has registered more than 12,000 deaths in the pandemic and nearly 1.8 million cases.

Case rates in Switzerland have been higher than in the EU, and another 38,000 new infections were announced Wednesday.

68 percent of the Swiss population are double-vaccinated and 35 percent have had a booster dose.

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

Under a new plan put forth by the Swiss government, anyone who needs a booster shot for travel abroad should pay for it out of pocket.

Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

While Covid shots were previously free for everyone in Switzerland, with the Swiss government picking up the tab, the country has been reluctant to issue a recommendation for a second booster.

As The Local reported on Monday, this means that many people’s most recent shot will soon be more than nine months ago, which is the date at which many Covid passes expire. 

READ MORE: What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

Although evidence of vaccination is not required domestically in Switzerland any more, it may pose issues in travel. 

Since many countries still require a vaccination certificate for entry, and as the second round of boosters is not yet available in Switzerland, this means that a large number of people may not be able to travel abroad.

Swiss health authorities: Travellers should pay for Covid boosters themselves

According to newest recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), people travelling abroad who need second booster doses must pay for the shots themselves.

As the fourth vaccine dose is currently recommended only for people with a severely weakened immune system, everyone outside of this group will be charged as yet undefined fee.

The proposal was sent to the cantons for consultation until June 1st.

If agreed on, the Federal Council will adjust the Epidemics Ordinance accordingly on June 10th.

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