Changes announced to COVID restrictions in Switzerland
In an announcement on January 19, the Federal Council has revealed several changes to COVID policy in Switzerland. These include changes affecting quarantine periods, COVID certificates and tests for travel.
COVID situation remains tense in Switzerland
In a statement, the Federal Council noted that COVID remains an issue in Switzerland, particularly the pressure caused by the virus in Swiss healthcare. Despite some cantons calling for a swift conclusion to some COVID restrictions, the council has instead chosen to modify several key policies.
After concluding discussions with Swiss cantons, the Federal Council has announced some changes to COVID rules. Here is what expats need to know:
Extension of Swiss COVID rules until March
In view of the tense situation in hospitals in Switzerland, the council has decided to extend the validity of all current COVID measures until the end of March 2022. The only exceptions are the order to the work from home, as well as the current quarantine rules for close contacts of COVID cases; these rules will only remain in place until the end of February.
The Federal Council assured the public that they would “constantly check” whether the situation would allow further relaxations, but will stick to the current timetable for now.
Testing requirement scrapped for vaccinated travellers
For travellers, the Federal Council confirmed that PCR and rapid antigen tests upon entry to Switzerland will be scrapped from January 22, 2022. Previously, vaccinated and recovered travellers had to present a PCR or rapid antigen test before entering the country, a decision that has now been waived.
For unvaccinated travellers, a PCR or rapid antigen test on entry is still required for those over the age of 16, but the policy of testing on day four through seven has also been scrapped. In addition, only those arriving in Switzerland by aeroplane or long-distance bus must fill in a Passenger Locator Form (PLF).
Modifications made to close contact tracing
For events, the Federal Council is lifting the obligation to collect the contact details of attendees. This means that, at nightclubs and indoor events with 50 people or fewer, contact details no longer have to be recorded. However, the Federal Council has noted that it will ultimately be up to cantons to decide whether to continue with contact tracing.
COVID certificate validity curtailed
In addition, from January 31, 2022, all COVID certificates for those who are vaccinated or recovered will have their period of validity reduced from 365 days to 270. The rule now aligns Switzerland with the EU, which has also shortened the validity period of certificates.
To ease the burden on PCR test facilities, those who have tested positive for COVID through a rapid antigen test no longer have to confirm this through a PCR test and can receive a “recovered” COVID certificate once a full recovery is made. These certificates are valid for 270 days and can only be used in Switzerland.
At-risk people given PCR test priority
Finally, the Federal Office of Public Health has recommended a new “priority order” structure for people receiving PCR tests, due to high demand for tests and overwhelmed testing facilities.
The highest priority is given to those who are "at risk" and are showing symptoms or are a close contact of a positive COVID case. The lowest priority is given to those who need PCR tests for professional or private travel.
Federal Council to discuss COVID rules in February
The Federal Council assured the public that they would be regularly reviewing the data to determine whether restrictions could be lifted faster. They have already indicated that they will be discussing easing restrictions on February 2, 2022.