Swiss to re-open borders with neighbouring countries

The border with neighbouring Germany was closed in mid-March as part of efforts to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in Europe. Keystone/Georgios Kefalas

Switzerland is planning to re-open its borders with Germany, France and Austria as part of a gradual loosening of restrictions over the coronavirus pandemic imposed in March.

swissinfo.ch

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the four countries had agreed in principle on the coordinated re-introduction of the free movement of people by June 15.

"Discussions with my counterparts have shown a common intention to go back to normality, also at the borders, provided the epidemiological situation allows us to do so," she told a news conference on Wednesday.

"Tourism can resume between the three countries from mid-June, provided the conditions are right," she confirmed. 

Certain restrictions could be eased beforehand, possibly already this weekend, according to Keller-Sutter.

She said talks were underway to define the details of preliminary measures, notably for family reasons or property owners.

The announcement follows similar statements by the German and Austrian governments.

However, the resumption of international railway links, student exchange programmes or cross-border shopping trips would have to wait for the next phase in the Swiss government's Covid-19 exit strategy to be decided at the end of this month.

Migration restrictions between Switzerland and Austria have already been eased in the past few weeks.

Hotspot Italy 

There were no immediate plans to unblock the borders with Italy, one of the hotbeds of the pandemic in Europe.

Keller-Sutter declined to give a date, saying a coordinated approach also with other European countries was necessary. 

Currently only cross-border workers can cross into Switzerland from Italy.

+ What's happening at Swiss borders and airports? 

The European Union has warned that the free movement of people policy must be re-introduced once the Covid-19 epidemic is brought under control.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but it is part of the single-border Schengen agreement.

Some of the main north-south transit routes in Europe run through Switzerland - a popular holiday destination notably for German visitors.

Borders were closed in mid-March as part of wide-ranging restrictions on public life and business activities.

Links to further sources on travelling to and staying in Switzerland

The State Secretariat for Migration: updated information on the situation at the Swiss borders, with a helpline to answer questions about refusal of entry into Switzerland and the exceptions. 
 
The Swiss foreign ministry: information in French, German and Italian about the situation regarding foreign travel and the steps to be followed by Swiss citizens going abroad  

The Federal Office for Public Health (FOPH): live updates of the national situation, as well as recommendations, public safety measures, and details of upcoming announcements.

Follow SWI swissinfo.ch here, on Facebook, and on Twitter for timely updates on the situation in Switzerland. 

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