For members


Can Switzerland’s ski season withstand Omicron surge?

As the highly contagious variant spreads rapidly through Switzerland, the question is whether skiing is still a safe activity from an epidemiological point of view and whether further rules could curtail winter sports.

Skiing equipment laid out on wood
So far, Omicron has not impacted the pleasure of skiing in the Swiss Alps. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /AFP

There is abundant snow in Swiss mountains at the moment, beckoning skiers from far and near to hit the slopes.

However, latest data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) shows that in Valais and Graubünden, cantons where most ski resorts are located, contagion rates are among the highest in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Covid hotspots: ‘More hospitalisations’ predicted for Switzerland’s as cases increase

But unlike neighbouring Austria, where some tourism officials are calling for temporary closure of certain ski areas, there are no such plans in Switzerland at the moment

And if you are coming to ski from abroad, you will find Switzerland’s entry rules slightly relaxed, as the government scrapped the travel quarantine in favour of tests upon entry.

But is it safe to ski with Omicron spreading like wildfire?

One good thing about skiing and winter sports in general is that it’s an outdoor activity, and while the risk of catching Omicron — or any other virus for that matter — isn’t zero, it is significantly lower than when people gather in closed spaces, epidemiologists say.

The real risk lies in indoor and unventilated areas, and Switzerland has measures in place for that. One is that closed cable cars (as opposed to open-air chair lifts) must have capacity restrictions, which means large gondolas accommodating more than 25 people will have their capacity reduced to 70 percent to allow people to keep as much distance as possible.

In terms of eating out and entertainment, Switzerland has implemented the 2G and 2G-Plus rules for all indoor venues like bars, restaurants, clubs, gyms, cinemas, etc. You can read about what these regulations entail here:

2G: Switzerland targets unvaccinated with new Covid measures

EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s 2G-Plus rule?

What if you catch Covid while in a ski resort?

If Switzerland is not your home, you will have to isolate in your hotel or rented accommodation.

On Wednesday, the Federal Council proposed shortening the duration of quarantine period for infected people and their close companions to five days from the current 10 and seven, respectively. The proposed measure in now under consultation by cantons until January 17th.

Is Switzerland set to implement further rules for ski areas?

On January 5th, the government decided against new measures.

It stated, however, that “stricter measures (including closings) are ready” if the situation continues to deteriorate.

According to Health Minister Alain Berset, the crucial metric is not how many people are contracting the virus, but how many of those infected fall seriously ill and need to be hospitalised.

“The decisive factor is how many Omicron infected people need intensive care”,  he said

At the moment, ICUs are not overcrowded, but experts say that is likely to change soon, as Switzerland is expected to reach the peak of the Omicron wave within one to three weeks.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


UPDATE: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

Headed to Switzerland or returning home from abroad? These are the current entry rules.

UPDATE: What are the current rules for entering Switzerland?

After almost two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, Switzerland is gradually returning to normal. 

Nowhere is this clearer than in relation to travel. 

Entry from EU/EFTA countries

As of February 17th, Switzerland relaxed all Covid-related entry rules for EU entry.  

“It will no longer be necessary to provide proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test or complete an entry form” the government wrote. 

There are currently no countries on the ‘virus variant of concern’ list, although this may change if another mutation is detected. 

Travel: Six ways to save money while visiting Switzerland

In this case, entry rules may again be reinstated. Previous measures have included outright bans or requiring evidence of vaccination and/or tests, with these sometimes coming into effect at short notice. 

Non-EU/EFTA countries

Travel restrictions remain in place for third-country nationals, according to the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

Non-Europeans must present proof of full immunisation administered within the past 270 days with a vaccine recognised in Switzerland: Moderna, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac, Sinopharm and Covaxin.

Those who have not received one of the approved vaccines can’t enter Switzerland at the moment.

This link explains what rules are in place for various categories of travellers.

Covid certificate no longer required

In addition to relaxing entry rules, the Swiss government removed the Covid certificate requirement. This will no longer need to be shown in restaurants, bars and at events in Switzerland. 

Keep in mind however that other countries may require a Covid certificate. 

Reader question: Do Swiss still need Covid certificate to travel abroad?

It is important to note that this purely relates to Covid-related border measures. 

Other restrictions on entering Switzerland, i.e. the requirement to be granted a visa or due to specific bans placed on individuals and nationalities, will remain in place. 

A comprehensive guide on all of the measures which have been relaxed is laid out at the following link. 

Q&A: Everything you need to know about Switzerland relaxing Covid measures

What measures are still in effect? 

Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace, while they will continue to be required in public transport for the meantime. 

Berset said the continuation of this rule was justified as while people can avoid shopping – even supermarket shopping – this was not the case with public transport. 

“You can avoid shopping, for example with online shopping or by adjusting the time you go shopping. This is not the case in public transport,” he told the press on Wednesday. 

The government said this will be maintained in the meantime, but may be relaxed in the future as the situation allows it. 

Another measure which will remain in place is the isolation requirement for those who have tested positive. 

Anyone who has tested positive in Switzerland is required to isolate for five days. 

While Berset said this looks to be relaxed at the end of March, it was still important to stop the spread of the virus. 

“Anyone who has tested positive is very contagious in the short term… The most contagious people can be taken out of circulation in this way.”

Swiss President Ignazio Cassis said the isolation measure reflected solidarity in broader society. 

“You also stay at home when you are sick. Society demands that people stay at home when they are sick,” he said

Switzerland has registered more than 2.6 million Covid-19 cases and over 12,500 deaths during the pandemic and currently has a vaccination rate of 70 percent.