Following the discovery of a new, more contagious variant of the coronavirus in the UK and South Africa, the Federal Council today decided to take steps to prevent the further spread of this new virus strain. All persons who have entered Switzerland from these two countries since 14 December must go into quarantine for 10 days. The Federal Council has also introduced a general entry ban from today for all foreign nationals seeking to enter Switzerland from the UK and South Africa. This is intended in particular to stop travel from these countries for tourism purposes.
The Federal Council has approved amendments to COVID-19 Ordinance 3 prohibiting air travel between Switzerland and the UK and South Africa. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation FOCA yesterday ordered flights between Switzerland and these two countries to be suspended as of midnight on Sunday, 20 December.
A temporary derogation from the flight ban is being considered for persons resident in the UK or South Africa currently staying in Switzerland so that they may return home. That is also the case for persons resident in Switzerland currently staying in those two countries. However, it is imperative that such return journeys do not lead to infections.
The Federal Council also decided to withdraw freedom of movement privileges from persons resident in the UK until 31 December. Persons from the UK are therefore subject to a general ban on entering Switzerland. Freedom of movement privileges for British citizens were due to expire at the end of the year anyway.
The UK and South African authorities were given prior notice of the measures.
Initial indications are that the new variant of the coronavirus is significantly more transmissible than the existing strain. It is not yet clear to what extent the new strain has spread outside the UK and South Africa. No cases of the new strain have so far been identified in Switzerland.