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Switzerland changes policy on Covid testing and quarantine

Switzerland will require negative Covid tests from people entering the country from high-risk areas as of February 8. Keystone/ Ennio Leanza

The Swiss government has decided to adapt its Covid testing and quarantine policy and has earmarked extra funds to soften the impact of restrictions imposed on companies.

This content was published on January 27, 2021 - 16:37
swissinfo.ch/urs

People coming from high-risk countries will have to present a negative coronavirus test before entering Switzerland, said Interior Minister Alain Berset at a news conference on Wednesday.

However, the new rules, which are due to come into force on February 8, do not apply to cross-border workers.

In addition, the ten-day quarantine can be shortened if people test negative for Covid-19 after seven days. The government also agreed to pay the costs of testing for people without symptoms.

“It is meant as an incentive to increase the number of tests,” said Berset. The measures are to be used in nursing homes, schools, hotels and large companies.

More financial support

The government also plans to spend an additional CHF8 billion ($9 billion) on emergency funds, unemployment benefits and the short-time work compensation programmes.

It is also considering re-activating the scheme for state-guaranteed loans to cash-strapped companies hit by the restrictions, including temporary closures.

The financial aid still has to be approved by parliament during its spring session in March.

Finance Minister Ueli Maurer warned that Switzerland spent CHF15 billion on pandemic-related aid packages last year and it had already pledged another CHF15 billion this year.

He dismissed criticism that the government was not generous enough in comparison with other countries, saying it was running up debts of CHF150 million every day.

Comparisons

Faced with criticism of the government’s anti-Covid strategy 12 months after the pandemic hit Switzerland, both Economics Minister Guy Parmelin and Interior Minister Berset insisted that Switzerland must not be compared with countries such as Taiwan or New Zealand with low infection rates.

“Switzerland is not an island. It is in the centre of the European continent,” Berset said.

Parmelin, who holds the rotating Swiss presidency this year, defended the government policy despite errors and the slow pace.

“Not everything is perfect, but we're working on it," he said.

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