Stranded Brits and South Africans begin to return home for Christmas

A passenger waits for boarding at Geneva Airport last month Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Residents of Britain or South Africa currently in Switzerland will be able to return home from Thursday, subject to conditions. Flights between the countries were stopped on Sunday after reports of a fast-spreading new coronavirus strain.

This content was published on December 24, 2020 - 10:19

The same goes for Swiss residents stuck in the UK or South Africa, the government said in a statementExternal link on Wednesday. The objective is to allow people to return to their homes over Christmas.

Two planes from Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) left Zurich for Heathrow on Thursday morning. One more is set to take off from Zurich on Friday and two on Saturday. One plane will also leave for Britain from Geneva Airport.

The existing protective measures and quarantine rules apply, and passengers in quarantine are subject to special protective measures. “They will be kept apart from other travellers on the journey to the airport to minimise the epidemiological risk,” the government said.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) will work with the cantons to coordinate this special transfer service. Airlines will be required to comply with existing protective health measures when operating these flights.

For flights departing from the UK and South Africa and arriving in Switzerland, the airlines must seek prior approval from the Federal Office of Civil Aviation in view of the high risk of passengers introducing the new variant to Switzerland.

Only the following categories of people may travel as passengers:
• Swiss citizens (including citizens of Liechtenstein)
• Holders of a Swiss residence permit or type D visa from Switzerland
• Holders of a “laisser passer” issued by a Swiss representation in hardship cases

Airlines will be required to inform their passengers, for example with an in-flight announcement, that they must comply with Swiss quarantine rules on arrival.

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