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Monday, October 18, 2021

Switzerland: New Entry Rules Announced

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Bern: The Federal Council wants to prevent an increase in the number of infections caused by people returning from the autumn holidays. From Monday 20 September, travellers entering Switzerland who have not been vaccinated or has not recovered from COVID-19 will have to present a negative test result. They will then have to be tested again after four to seven days. This was decided by the Federal Council at its meeting on 17 September. The Federal Council has also set out details of how people who have been vaccinated abroad or have recovered abroad can obtain a COVID certificate.

With the autumn school holidays approaching, the Federal Council has decided on new public health requirements at the border. This comes in response to experience made after the summer holidays: data from the cantonal contact tracing offices indicates that returning holidaymakers contributed to the worsening situation after the summer. The new rules reflect the fact that the highly contagious Delta variant can cause case numbers to rise very rapidly on a regional basis. It has therefore been decided that keeping and updating a list of risk countries is no longer the most appropriate health protection measure at Switzerland’s  borders.

Compulsory testing on entry for travellers who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered

Anyone who has not been vaccinated or has not recovered must present a negative test result (antigen or PCR) on entry into Switzerland, irrespective of where they are travelling from or by which means of transport they are entering the country. After four to seven days in the country, another test must be carried out, subject to a fee. The result of the second test must be sent to the relevant cantonal office. Testing is not required for vaccinated or recovered travellers who can present a COVID certificate or other valid proof of vaccination or recovery.

Entry form required for everyone

All travellers entering Switzerland – whether vaccinated, recovered or with a negative test – must also complete the entry form (Passenger Locator Form, SwissPLF). This will enable the cantons to carry out random checks to determine whether people who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered and who entered the country with a test have actually taken the second test after four to seven days.

No test or form requirement for cross-border commuters 

The test and entry form requirements do not apply to travellers in transit through Switzerland without stopping, drivers who transport people or goods professionally, and cross-border commuters or people entering from border areas. The Federal Council is thus taking account of the close economic, social and cultural exchange in the border regions. Children under 16 are also exempt from the test requirement.

Risk-based inspections

More than two million people and one million vehicles cross Switzerland’s borders every day. Risk-based inspections are to be carried out to ensure compliance with the new rules. Anyone required to present a negative test result and who cannot do so on entry must take a test immediately after entering Switzerland. The cantons are required to carry out random checks to ensure that incoming travellers who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered have actually taken the required second test. Fines may be imposed if these rules are breached (CHF 200 for missing test certificates and CHF 100 for incomplete forms). In international travel, the airlines and bus companies are responsible for ensuring that travellers to Switzerland have completed the Passenger Locator Form and can present a COVID certificate or a negative test result. The Federal Customs Administration and local police forces will carry out risk-based inspections on all modes of cross-border travel. In a few weeks, the Federal Council will evaluate the experience with the new entry rules and make adjustments if necessary. Entry requirements: Alignment with Schengen Area

The existing entry regulations remain unchanged. The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) continues to operate a list of high-risk countries, which is used to determine who may enter Switzerland. Any non-Schengen state not on this list is still considered a risk country for which restrictions on entry to Switzerland apply to unvaccinated third-country nationals. As a Schengen associated country, Switzerland aligns its entry regulations as far as possible with the decisions taken by the European Union. The Travelcheck online tool can be used to check the conditions for travellers wishing to enter Switzerland from specific countries.

Swiss COVID certificate for individuals vaccinated or recovered abroad

As of 20 September, anyone who has been vaccinated abroad with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and who is resident in or travelling to Switzerland will be able to obtain a Swiss COVID certificate. This means that people who have been vaccinated abroad or have recovered abroad, such as tourists, can also participate in social activities here. Currently, only the certificates of countries using the EU Digital COVID Certificate are compatible with the Swiss system.

The documents can be submitted electronically. Each canton must designate a contact point for persons who have been vaccinated abroad. All cantonal contact points will be listed on a federal website. A federal working group (FDHA, FDFA, FDF) will oversee implementation together with the cantons and other agencies (data protection). The aim is to find a solution that is as efficient, straightforward and user-oriented as possible. In a transitional phase until 10 October 2021, all foreign vaccination certificates (e.g. WHO vaccination certificate) will be valid for access to events or facilities requiring a COVID certificate.

As in neighbouring countries, access to the Swiss COVID certificate will not be extended to all WHO vaccines. Exceptions are being made for Swiss citizens living abroad returning to the country, non-EU citizens working in Switzerland, employees of international organisations and accredited diplomatic staff, as well as students.

The outcome of the consultation

The Federal Council had consulted on two variants for adapting the entry regulations, one with a requirement to take two tests and one with mandatory quarantine. Based on the results of the consultation, the Federal Council decided in favour of the first variant, which was found to be more practicable and should involve less additional work for the cantons.

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