COVID-19: Epidemiological situation does not presently warrant compulsory testing for travellers from China

Bern, 11.01.2023 - The Swiss Federal Council discussed the latest EU recommendations on the measures to be taken for persons entering the Union by air when it met on 11 January 2023. The Council resolved that travellers from China should not be required to undergo compulsory COVID-19 testing at the present time. In the Council’s view, the Omicron variants of the coronavirus presently circulating in China pose only a small risk to the Swiss population and the Swiss health system. The Council did resolve, however, that travellers from and to China should be more comprehensively informed about hygiene measures. The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health also advises such travellers that facemasks should be worn.

The Federal Council’s decision is based on the present epidemiological situation. People in Switzerland currently have strong protection against developing severe COVID-19: many of them have already been vaccinated or have already been infected and recovered. In view of this, the present infection trends in China are not expected to pose an increased risk to the Swiss population or the Swiss health system.

According to the latest findings, the variants of the coronavirus currently circulating in China are Omicron variants which are already extensively distributed in Switzerland or are already on the decline. In addition, the circulation of the virus in Switzerland is currently so high that compulsorily testing the relatively small number of persons arriving in the country from China directly by air would have minimal impact on the virus’s current spread. The risk of new virus variants of concern developing is also no higher in China than elsewhere.

Situation constantly monitored

The epidemiological situation in Switzerland will continue to be closely monitored. The actions being taken here include the existing monitoring of wastewater facilities, which also covers airport regions and key tourist areas, the mandatory reporting system (tests, case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths), the Sentinella reporting system and the tracking of virus variants by sequencing wastewater samples and cases of hospitalisation. Switzerland is also clarifying whether the wastewater from all flights arriving directly from China should be specifically checked for new virus variants.

Switzerland is working closely with the EU and other European nations to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. This close collaboration is a key foundation to handling the pandemic in Switzerland. With the actions resolved by the Swiss Federal Council on 11 January, Switzerland is making its contribution to ensuring the coordinated adoption of the recommendations which the nations of the EU and the Schengen Zone have jointly devised and developed.

Switzerland will continue to closely monitor all further developments, particularly the identification of new virus variants, and will consider further adjustments to its border health provisions as and when required. The EU has also scheduled a further review of its present border health recommendations for mid-January 2023.

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