Policy responses for Switzerland - HSRM


Policy responses for Switzerland

1.3 Isolation and quarantine

On March 7, the FOPH communicated that individuals who had a confirmed infection but did not need to be hospitalized had to be isolated at home (self-isolation). End of isolation should be 48 hours after the symptoms subsided, provided that at least 10 days elapsed since the onset of symptoms. Individuals who had close contact with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infected person, i.e. living in the same household or having an intimate relationship, had to self-quarantine for 5 days.

On March 19, the FOPH published information on self-isolation. Besides individuals with laboratory confirmed cases who did not need to be hospitalized, all individuals who had symptoms of an acute respiratory infection, which could be caused by the coronavirus, had to be isolated at home for at least 10 days. Those who lived with or had had an intimate relationship with a person who had symptoms of an acute respiratory disease also had to go into quarantine at home for 10 days on their own initiative. This applied if they had contact while the person with the disease had symptoms and/or 24 hours before the symptoms appeared.

The current recommendations on isolation and quarantining are the following (status 24.06.2020):

If a person experiences one or more of the more common symptoms of the coronavirus (e.g. dry cough, high temperature, muscle ache or sore throat), the person should:
1. stay at home. Isolate him-/herself (instruction on isolation can be found here: https://www.bag.admin.ch/dam/bag/en/dokumente/mt/k-und-i/aktuelle-ausbrueche-pandemien/2019-nCoV/merkblatt-selbstisolation-covid-19.pdf.download.pdf/covid-19_instructions_isolation.pdf) 
2. take the coronavirus check: https://check.foph-coronavirus.ch/screening, which provides recommendations as what to do next. If a person is advised to get tested, the person will be given instructions on how to proceed. (The person can also call their doctor.)
3. get tested if the corona check recommends to do so.
4. stay at home until they get the results back.

If the test is positive:
• Person should stay in isolation
• The cantonal medical service will contact the person and give further information and instructions. The service will help tracing with whom the person has been in contact. All contacts are asked to go into quarantine.
• As a rule, persons can only leave their home if they have been free of symptoms for at least 48 hours, and at least ten days must have been passed since symptoms first appeared.
If a person experiences a sudden loss of sense of smell or tastes, and if it persists, individuals can still come out of isolation if this is the only remaining symptom.

If the test is negative:
• Persons should stay home and they can come out of isolation 24 hours after symptoms subside.

If the coronavirus check did not recommend a test:
• Persons should stay home and they can come out of isolation 24 hours after symptoms disappear.

Quarantine for travellers from high-risk regions
Since mid-June, the number of new cases of coronavirus has been rising in Switzerland as infected persons have entered the country from countries within the Schengen area and from non-Schengen countries. Consequently, starting July 6, travellers entering Switzerland from certain regions have to go into quarantine for ten days. The FOPH has a list of the countries concerned, which is updated regularly (https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/empfehlungen-fuer-reisende/quarantaene-einreisende.html#accordion1596783131170).

On September 11, the Federal Council updated the quarantine rules, taking a region-based approach to neighbouring countries, including only specific regions of neighbouring countries in the list of areas with an increased risk of infection. The border regions of neighbouring countries may be exempted from inclusion on the list, taking into account the close economic, social and cultural exchanges that take place in the border regions. Taking a regional approach means that persons returning to Switzerland from risk areas will be required to go into quarantine, but not persons returning from regions on the Swiss border.

Artists returning from cultural events, athletes returning from competitions and persons who have been attending professional conferences are exempted from the quarantine requirement. However, this exemption only applies if precautionary measures have been planned and taken at the foreign event concerned. Also exempted from the quarantine requirement are persons who are required to travel without delay to a risk area for professional or medical reasons. The persons concerned must not remain abroad for more than five days, and precautionary measures must be planned and taken.

Foreign diplomats are eligible for an exemption from the quarantine requirement if their presence in Switzerland is necessary for the proper operation of their embassies. Swiss diplomats are exempt from the requirement to go into quarantine when returning from official business trips. Travellers affected are notified during the flight, on board coaches and at border crossings. They have to register with the cantonal authorities on arrival. Airlines and travel companies have been instructed not to transport sick passengers.

Starting October, 29 2020 only countries and areas where the seven day incidence exceeds the Swiss incidence by more than 60/100 000 will be put on the quarantine list.

Starting February 8, 2021, the quarantine rules were adapted to include a test-and-release strategy. Until that date anyone who had come into contact with an infected person had to go into quarantine for ten days. Under the new rules, a person may leave quarantine after seven days if after this time they have a negative result from an antigen rapid test or a PCR test, and are authorized to do so by the local cantonal authorities. The person must pay for the test him-/herself and must wear a mask and continue to socially distance until the full ten days' quarantine is over, unless they remain at home (or in the place they are quarantining - holiday apartment, hotel etc.). If their test result is positive, they must isolate immediately.

The new test-and-release strategy also applies to persons arriving in Switzerland from a country or region with a high risk of infection. On arrival, these travellers must present valid proof of a negative PCR test result that is no more than 72 hours old. They then have to quarantine for ten days; they can leave quarantine after seven days if they again test negative (antigen rapid test or PCR test). All persons arriving by air even from a country that is not considered high risk must be able to show a negative PCR test result before boarding the plane.

Sources and links:

• FOPH information on self-isolation: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/selbst-isolierung-und-selbst-quarantaene.html 
• July 1 FOPH news release on quarantine for high-risk regions https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-79711.html
• Coronavirus: No quarantine for persons entering from border regions https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-80387.html 
• Coronavirus: Large-scale events to be permitted from October under strict conditions and with a permit (12.08.2020) https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-80054.html
• New coronavirus: new measures, rapid tests and change to travel quarantine: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/news/news-28-10-2020.html
• Coronavirus: Federal Council introduces 7pm closing time and closures on Sundays and public holidays: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-81582.html 
• Coronavirus: Federal government to cover costs of tests for persons without symptoms and modify quarantine rules: https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/das-bag/aktuell/medienmitteilungen.msg-id-82136.html