Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

From Cambodia back to Switzerland: Airplane from Phnom Penh lands in Zurich with 182 passengers

Because of the spread of the coronavirus, many countries are implementing drastic measures that also restrict travel opportunities. Many Swiss tourists and business travellers are affected. Where they were no longer able to organise their return journey independently, the FDFA is providing support: it has launched its largest ever repatriation action. Aircrafts chartered by the FDFA bring Swiss citizens back to Switzerland. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis is in close contact with the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre (KMZ), which coordinates the return flights. Updates will be published regularly.

Swiss Embassy staff at Bangkok Airport assist passengers who have checked in for the flight from Bangkok to Zurich.

#Flyinghome Thailand – Switzerland. At Bangkok airport, Swiss Embassy staff provide assistance to travellers checking in for a flight from Bangkok to Zurich. © FDFA

03.04.2020 – 16.20

© FDFA

From Cambodia back to Switzerland: Airplane from Phnom Penh lands in Zurich with 182 passengers

On Friday afternoon a plane from Phnom Penh landed in Zurich. On board were 50 Swiss travellers and 132 passengers from other European countries. The flight departing from the capital of Cambodia was the fourth return flight from Asia organised by the FDFA as part of its return strategy.

03.04.2020 – 07.50

© FDFA

Second return flight from Thailand - aircraft with 177 passengers from Phuket lands in Zurich

On Friday morning an Edelweiss plane, with 120 passengers from Switzerland and 57 passengers from other European countries on board, landed in Zurich. This was the second flight from Thailand as part of the FDFA's repatriation operation. A third flight is scheduled to take place on 5 April 2020, when a Swiss aircraft from Bangkok are due to land.

03.04.2020 – 06.05

© FDFA

#flyinghome: Flight from Quito landed in Zurich with 117 Swiss on board

The flight from Quito, the capital of Ecuador, with 117 passengers from Switzerland and 182 passengers from other European countries on board, landed in Zurich on Friday. This is the sixth flight from South America organised by the FDFA after two from Lima and one each from Bogotá, Santiago de Chile and Buenos Aires. The flight was made possible thanks to cooperation between the FDFA crisis centre, the Swiss embassy in Quito and the airline Edelweiss.

02.04.2020 – 06.10

© FDFA

Gecharterte Edelweiss-Maschine mit blockierten Reisenden aus Myanmar landet in der Schweiz

Am frühen Donnerstagmorgen ist ein Edelweiss-Charterfllug aus Yangon (Myanmar) in Zürich gelandet. Das EDA hat bei diesem Flug im Sinne eines «Burden Sharings» neben 39 Schweizer Reisenden zahlreiche Staatsangehörige anderer europäischer Staaten in die Schweiz geflogen. Umgekehrt konnten in den letzten zwei Wochen auch Schweizer Reisende von Sonderflügen nach Europa profitieren, die von anderen Staaten durchgeführt wurden.

Effiziente Zusammenarbeit – bereits 725 Schweizer Reisende mit Sonderflügen anderer Staaten zurückgekehrt

Das EDA führt bei den von ihm organisierten Reisen prioritär blockierte Schweizer Reisende zurück. Die Rückholstrategie des EDA setzt aber zusätzlich auf eine enge Zusammenarbeit mit befreundeten Staaten und wird dadurch effizienter und solidarischer. Durch das gegenseitige Angebot von Plätzen auf Sonderflügen können möglichst viele verfügbare Rückkehrmöglichkeiten genutzt werden. Damit profitieren insbesondere blockierte Schweizerinnen und Schweizer in Destinationen wie z.B. den Kapverdischen Inseln oder Guatemala, die von der Schweiz aufgrund der kleinen Personenzahlen nicht angeflogen werden könnten. Angesichts der eingeschränkten Reisemöglichkeiten im Landesinnern ist es zudem einigen Passagieren oft nicht möglich, rechtzeitig zu den Flughäfen zu gelangen. Freie Plätze können dann weitervermittelt werden – im Interesse aller Staaten und ihrer Reisenden.

Gelebte Solidarität: Beispiel Nepal

Ein Beispiel dieser gelebten Solidarität war zum Beispiel die Zusammenarbeit bei der Rückkehr vieler Reisender aus Nepal, als die Schweiz den Inlandflug von Pokatha nach Kathmandu organisiert hatte, auf dem Reisende aus verschiedenen Staaten Platz fanden. Schweizer Reisende konnten danach auf zwei von Deutschland und Frankreich gecharterten Flugzeugen nach Europa fliegen. Insgesamt fanden Schweizer Reisende bislang bei rund 50 Sonderflügen anderer Staaten Platz und konnten von deren Destinationen dann in die Schweiz weiterreisen.

01.04.2020 – 20.40

© FDFA

#flyinghome: Flight from Yaounde landed in Zurich with 268 passengers on board

The flight from Yaounde, with 268 passengers from Switzerland and from other European countries, landed in Zurich. The flight made a stopover in Douala, Cameroon's economic capital, where it could take on several passengers. Collaboration between the FDFA crisis centre, the Swiss Embassy of Cameroon and the Edelweiss airline enabled this second flight from sub-Saharan Africa.

01.04.2020 – 15.05

FDFA

#flyinghome: Airplane from Tunis brings Swiss travellers to Geneva and Zurich

After Casablanca (Morocco) and Alger (Algeria), a third return flight from North Africa organised by the FDFA has now been completed: A Swiss plane from the Tunisian capital Tunis landed in Geneva this afternoon with 91 travellers from Switzerland and 83 passengers from other European countries. Some of the passengers will not disembark until Zurich, where the plane will fly from Geneva.

#flyinghome in pictures

#flyinghome is the largest repatriation operation of Swiss nationals in the history of Switzerland. The FDFA is organising a large number of return flights following the coronavirus epidemic that hit the whole world in the first quarter of 2020.

01.04.2020 – 10.25

© FDFA

#flyinghome: Return flight from Lima - 266 Swiss travellers landed in Zurich

The second return flight from Lima, which the DFA organised as part of its return mission, has now been completed: On Wednesday morning, an Edelweiss airline plane landed in Zurich. On board were 266 Swiss travellers and 33 passengers from other European countries. Many of them had been brought to Lima in buses from various cities in northern, southern and eastern Peru. The Swiss Embassy had organised these bus convoys because the measures taken to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus have severely restricted travel opportunities within the country.

01.04.2020 – 10.15

«You made an incredible great job, super well organized, tranquilo!»

The FDFA's large-scale repatriation operation is in full swing. To date, over 1,500 blocked Swiss travellers from abroad have already been brought back home. Many of them are relieved and grateful, as can be seen in the social media.

A wreath for our @travel_edadfae @EDA_DFAE – flew home from Lima with Edelweiss, everything picobello organized, pragmatic, unbureaucratic - great logistical performance, many thanks to the Swiss Embassy in Peru, FDFA, Edelweiss.
Alex Baur on Twitter
Screenshots of Twitter and Instagram posts in which Swiss travellers thank the FDFA for the rapatriation action.
On Twitter and Instagram, Swiss travellers who were able to return home thanks to the FDFA express their gratitude. © FDFA

For its part, the FDFA would like to express its gratitude for these contributions. They show that the efforts of the Swiss representations, the Helpline, the Crisis Management Centre, the Consular Directorate and the FDFA's partners in Switzerland and abroad are having an effect in the context of the repatriation operation.

Practical international solidarity

Screenshots of two tweets in which Germany thanks Switzerland and Switzerland thanks Germany for return flights.
Solidarity between neighbours on social media. © FDFA

Due to travel restrictions within a country it is not always easy to reach the airports in time. This is described for example by heal_move on Instagram: "On the way to the meeting point (in Lima, editor's note) I could neither order a taxi nor stop one on the street because of the quarantine. Time was running and I was still waiting to be connected online (Uber), but nobody was reachable! I decided to walk and hitchhike! I am not going to miss this flight!!! I kept running, the streets were empty... Finally, luckily a car – the only car! The driver took me to the meeting point – ohmygod!!! On the way we picked up some more Swiss people". The story of heal_move had a happy end: On March 24th sh landed with an Edelweiss-Airbus in Zurich.

As in the case of heal_move, solidarity is also important on an international level, so that the FDFA’s retrieval action works. Switzerland takes travellers from other countries on its flights to Europe. Conversely, the FDFA checks whether there is room for Swiss nationals on flights operated by other countries. With success, as the examples from Nepal or Chile show. The gratitude for this lived solidarity is mutual!

More return flights

The FDFA is aware that a large number of Swiss nationals are still stranded in almost all parts of the world and thanks them for their patience. The Department is working hard to find return flights for these people too and to support them as far as possible. Further return flights are planned.

31.03.2020 – 20.00

#flyinghome: The FDFA in action for Swiss travellers around the world.

The FDFA is working intensively at its headquarters in Bern and in its representations abroad to ensure that Swiss travellers have return flight options.

31.03.2020 – 19.30

© FDFA

#flyinghome: 216 travellers from Bangkok land in Zurich

At 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, a flight operated by Swiss from Bangkok landed at Zurich airport. The aircraft, chartered by the FDFA, had 216 passengers on board, including 114 Swiss nationals and 102 nationals of other European countries. This is the second repatriation operation organised by the FDFA from Asia and the first from the Thai capital.

31.03.2020 – 09.05

© FDFA

#flyinghome: 299 travellers returned to Switzerland from Buenos Aires

On Tuesday morning, 299 travellers, including 232 Swiss citizens, landed in Zurich on a flight from Buenos Aires. The flight, operated by the airline Edelweiss, is the first from the Argentine capital and the fifth from Latin America as part of the FDFA's organized repatriation strategy. To date, more than a thousand passengers from Africa, South America and Asia have already been returned to Switzerland in planes chartered by the FDFA.

31.03.2020 – 07.00

© FDFA

Ready for the return from Peru to Switzerland

After long journeys through Peru, the three bus convoys from Cusco, Arequipa and Tumbes reached the airport of Lima. The delay due to the accident of one of the buses could be made up. 270 travellers from Switzerland and other European countries are now ready for the return flight to Switzerland. The plane will land in Zurich on 1 April.

31.03.2020 – 06.10

© FDFA

#flyinghome: More than 200 Swiss return from the Philippines

The FDFA's retrieval of stranded Swiss nationals is continuing. For the first time, people have been brought back home from the Asian continent. From the Philippine province of Cebu and the capital Manila, a plane brought 332 passengers to Zurich early Tuesday morning. These were 202 Swiss travellers and 130 foreign nationals, 25 of whom live in Switzerland. Over 80 foreign passengers are nationals of different EU countries.

30.03.2020 – 15.30

Federal Councillor Cassis talks to the members of the State Council of Canton Ticino.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis met today with the State Council of Canton Ticino. He symbolically wanted to offer two respirators, ready for use in intensive care. © Elizabeth La Rosa

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis visits Ticino and brings two ventilators

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis met today with the State Council of Canton Ticino, which is particularly affected by the coronavirus outbreak. He symbolically wanted to offer two respirators, ready for use in intensive care. The Foreign Minister assured the Confederation's proximity and paid tribute to the work of the cantonal authorities, health personnel and all those involved in crisis management. "I am very impressed by the commitment and dedication of those who fight every day to protect the population," said Cassis after visiting the Cantonal Emergency Operations Centre in Giubiasco. The minister then stressed "the patience, strength and solidarity shown by the population".

During a meeting with the media, the Federal Councillor asked the population to trust the Swiss and cantonal authorities. "These efforts will not be in vain," said Ignazio Cassis, "because they will allow us to make a new beginning: to find our lives, our work and our loved ones. We will begin again perhaps a little different, but - I hope - less distant and more united".

The Head of the FDFA recalled the important contribution made by the Department in this moment of crisis. In addition to the largest operation to recover Swiss tourists stranded abroad ever organised, which has already enabled some 1,400 people to return home, the FDFA is also intervening to make the transit of goods possible, which is often difficult due to the restrictions imposed by various countries. This effort has made it possible to bring medical equipment, which has been blocked abroad, into Switzerland. Regular contacts between Foreign Minister Cassis and his counterparts also ensure that cross-border workers in the medical sector can continue to cross the border and work in Switzerland. This prevents the collapse of the entire healthcare system.

In Bellinzona, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis met with the presidents of Ticino and Graubünden: Christian Vitta and Christian Rathgeb, accompanied by the Minister of Health Peter Peyer of Graubünden. A further testimony to the unity of Italian-speaking Switzerland, which is addressing this crisis with the slogan "distant but close".

 

30.03.2020 – 14.45

Bus crashed while driving through Peru

An accident has occurred during the return transport of travellers from Switzerland and other European countries from the Peruvian Andean city of Cusco to Lima. One of the busses crashed. Three people were injured. The Swiss Embassy, which organised the bus convoy, is providing medical care for the injured in a local hospital and is endeavouring to get the remaining travellers to Lima in good time so that they can start their return flight to Switzerland.

29.03.2020 – 21.00

Swiss bus convoys transport travellers through Peru to Lima airport

Three bus convoys are currently on their way through Peru. After the first four buses have already reached Cusco in the Andean highlands in eastern Peru, from where they will take 130 travellers from Switzerland and other European countries to Lima, the second and third bus convoys have later also reached their destinations: in Punta Sal/Tumbes in the north and in Arequipa in the south of the country, the buses will take about 160 travellers. Because travel opportunities in the country are severely restricted due to the measures taken to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Swiss Embassy has chosen overland routes to reach the travellers. They are driven to Lima airport. There the aircraft chartered by the FDFA is scheduled to take off on 31 March. On 1 April, the Edelweiss airline will land in Zurich.

29.03.2020 – 19.15

The return flight from Manila to Switzerland has been delayed

The return flight of 318 passengers, including 208 Swiss nationals, from Manila to Switzerland has been delayed: the aircraft chartered by the FDFA was already on the runway in the Philippine capital on Sunday. But because an aircraft standing further ahead caught fire, departure had to be postponed. The Swiss and foreign travellers are doing well and are staying in a hotel. The flight is scheduled to take off on Monday morning.

29.03.2020 – 19.00

Le DFAE a connaissance de la situation du navire de croisière Costa Deliziosa qui se trouve actuellement dans l’océan indien avec 259 ressortissants suisses à bord.

La compagnie maritime cherche activement des solutions pour le débarquement des passagers et leur retour dans leur pays de résidence.

Le DFAE suit la situation de très près. Il est en contact avec plusieurs passagers se trouvant à bord du navire afin de leur apporter un soutien dans le cadre de la protection consulaire.

29.03.2020 – 15.10

  

Relief after their return: two passengers on the plane that brought back 105 Swiss travellers from Alger to Switzerland on Sunday are delighted to arrive in Geneva.

29.03.2020 – 15.05

© FDFA

#flyinghome: Swiss flight from Algeria lands in Geneva with 117 passengers

117 travellers arrived in Switzerland on Sunday afternoon as part of the FDFA's repatriation mission from Algiers. They consisted of 105 Swiss nationals and 12 citizens of other countries, eleven of whom live in Switzerland. Swiss's aircraft flew to Geneva for the first time after the previous flights had landed in Zurich as part of the repatriation operation. After Casablanca and Dakar, the FDFA chartered an Airbus from Algiers to fly stranded persons out of the African continent for the third time.

29.03.2020 – 10.30

Thanks to Switzerland

"Me permito transmitir especialmente los agradecimientos hacia el gobierno suizo del grupo de ciudadanos chilenos que pudieron viajar esta madrugada a Santiago." The Ambassador of Chile in Switzerland, Francisco Gormaz, passes on the gratitude of the group of Chilean citizens in Switzerland to the Swiss government. Several Chilean nationals were able to travel on the plane that left Zurich for Santiago de Chile to bring Swiss travellers back to Switzerland.

The cooperation with other countries is an important element in order to carry out the return actions as efficiently as possible. The FDFA therefore arranged seats for Swiss citizens when the United Kingdom returned British travellers from Recife (Brazil) or Germany brought its own nationals from Amman (Jordan) back home. The FDFA's Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) is therefore in permanent contact with the relevant authorities in other countries in order to take advantage of all opportunities to support Swiss travellers abroad.

29.03.2020 – 10.00

© FDFA

#flyinghome: 159 Swiss travellers return to Switzerland from Santiago de Chile

On Sunday morning 159 Swiss travellers landed in Zurich on a flight from Santiago de Chile. This flight, operated by the airline Swiss, is the fourth flight from Latin America (to San José, Bogotà and Lima) as part of the FDFA's repatriation strategy. Swiss travellers were also brought back to Switzerland from Casablanca and Dakar. On Sunday afternoon a plane from Alger with Swiss travellers will also land in Geneva. So far, around 1100 Swiss travellers have been repatriated by aircrafts chartered by the FDFA.

29.03.2020 – 02.00

First Swiss bus convoy reaches Cusco

Four buses, which set off from the Peruvian capital Lima to Cusco, have reached the city in the Andean highlands of Peru. The buses, which were organised by the Swiss Embassy, will bring around 130 travellers from Switzerland and other European countries to Lima on Monday. From there, the Edelweiss airline plane chartered by the FDFA will take off for Switzerland on 31 March 2020 and land in Zurich on 1 April 2020.

28.03.2020 – 14.30

“It's like a Swiss watch”

"Let me express my thanks to all those outside and inside the federal administration, but also outside the national borders, who are working together perfectly to make this action possible at all", said Johannes Matyassy, Director of the FDFA’s Consular Directorate (KD), at the federal press conference on the FDFA's repatriation operation for stranded Swiss travellers abroad. "It's like a Swiss watch: only when every cog is in the right place does the whole thing work."

So far, five flights from Latin America and Africa have brought back to Switzerland some 1400 stranded Swiss nationals. Matyassy announced that on Sunday, 29 March 2020, one plane from Santiago de Chile will land in Zurich and one from Algiers in Geneva – if all the permits arrive in time. The FDFA is planning numerous further return flights in the coming days and weeks, not only from South America and Africa but also from Asia and Oceania.

Bus convoys for blocked Swiss travellers in Cusco

The director of KD also commented on the situation in Peru: "We are aware of the difficult situation and have done everything possible to bring back the blocked tourists in Cusco. Following a telephone call by Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis with his Peruvian counterpart, Gustavo Adolfo Meza-Cuadra Velásquez, it was possible to confirm landing permission for the planned Edelweiss flight to Lima next Tuesday. The DFA is now busy bringing the blocked persons to Lima. "Two bus convoys are on their way to Cusco and Arequipa," confirmed Matyassy. If the approximately 15-hour journey to Cusco and the return journey can be completed without any problems, the blocked Swiss travellers will be at Lima airport in time for their return flight to Switzerland, as will those from Arequipa.

Patience is needed

The FDFA is aware that in many places there are still very many stranded Swiss tourists. "I would like to thank these stranded persons for their understanding if they occasionally have to be patient because repatriation is not possible immediately," stressed the Director of the KD. The organisation of such a return flight is a huge logistical but also political task. "The Swiss representations abroad are doing an enormous amount of work here to help organize return possibilities in a concrete way", said Johannes Matyassy.

Thanks to all partners abroad

The KD director also spoke about cooperation with foreign countries. This is a very important aspect: "We have many operations where we work with other countries." The most recent example: the Swiss representation in Kathmandu organized a flight within Nepal and was able to take various blocked travellers from other countries to the capital. As a result, the stranded Swiss travellers will be able to return to Switzerland on a flight organized by Germany and France. This international cooperation is a very important factor in ensuring that the clockwork for assisting blocked Swiss travellers abroad works perfectly.

28.03.2020 – 12.00

Tourists stand in line to board a bus. Two members of the German Embassy in Kathmandu are standing next to it.
Members of the German Embassy in Kathmandu guide German and Swiss travellers to a bus that takes them to the airport. © Bikram Rai

Solidarity in action among neighbouring states: 24 Swiss travellers on their way from Nepal to Europe

24 Swiss travellers are currently on their return flight from the Nepalese capital Kathmandu to Paris or Frankfurt. The two flights are operated by France and Germany. The Swiss Embassy in Nepal has arranged for Swiss nationals to travel on these two flights.

Switzerland, for its part, had previously organized a domestic flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu, which brought Swiss travellers as well as German and French nationals to Kathmandu. This close cooperation between the embassies on the ground enables the return flights to Europe to be organised efficiently and in the interests of the travellers.

28.03.2020 – 08.00

Picture of the tweet from Federal Councilor Cassis after his telephone contact with Peru's Foreign Minister Meza-Cuadra Velásquez.
In his Tweet, Federal Councillor Cassis thanks the Peruvian Foreign Minister for his support. © FDFA

Federal Councillor Cassis talks to Peru's foreign minister - return flight from Lima to Zurich can be arranged

In direct contact with his Peruvian counterpart, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis has ensured that the second return flight from Lima to Zurich can take place. Among other things, the landing clearance for the aircraft that will bring Swiss travellers back to Switzerland on April 1st 2020 was still open. Meanwhile, the Swiss Embassy in Lima has sent four busses to Cusco to bring around 130 Swiss nationals to Lima on time. They will be accompanied by three embassy staff members. Travel opportunities in the country are severely restricted due to the measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

26.03.2020 – 20.45

#flyinghome: Around 900 Swiss travellers already returned - FDFA organises further return flights

The FDFA's repatriation operation is underway. So far, five flights from Latin America and Africa have brought some 900 Swiss nationals back to Switzerland. They had not been able to organise their return journey themselves due to travel restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

The FDFA is planning numerous other flights, not only to South America and Africa but also to Asia and Oceania. In addition, the FDFA arranges, wherever possible, for Swiss nationals to travel on flights organised by other countries. It also assists Swiss nationals in travelling to airports from which the aircraft will then depart for Switzerland.

Return flights organized by the FDFA – an overview

26.03.2020 – 20.40

  Map showing the route of the flight from Lima to Zurich
© FDFA

#flyinghome: 73 Swiss travellers return from Senegal

The fifth aircraft bringing Swiss travellers back to Switzerland as part of the FDFA's repatriation operation landed in Zurich on Thursday evening from Dakar. On board were 73 Swiss travellers and 74 passengers from other countries (15 of whom are resident in Switzerland). The flight from the capital of Senegal was prepared jointly by the Swiss and German representations. The aircraft therefore flew on from Zurich to Frankfurt am Main.

26.03.2020 – 14.00

FDFA Helpline receives over 10,000 calls and over 10,000 e-mails

In connection with the return flights of Swiss travellers, the FDFA Helpline has received over 10,000 telephone calls and over 10,000 e-mails since 19 March. In order to be able to respond to all requests, the number of staff has been increased from 13 to about 80 people supporting the Helpline on a part-time basis by FDFA-internal transfers, said Johannes Matyassy, Director of the Consular Directorate (KD), at a federal media conference. Many questions would also be forwarded to the relevant offices, e.g. the Federal Office of Public Health or the State Secretariat for Migration.

"We come up against our limits where the expectations of stranded Swiss people can simply not be met," said the KD Director. As an example, he cited the desire to be picked up by helicopter. Expectation management is one of the biggest challenges at the moment. The foreign representations also have to struggle with this. "We go more than the extra mile – whenever we are able to," assured Johannes Matyassy.

The Director of the KD reiterated that the FDFA was in the second phase of the retrieval strategy. In this phase, the FDFA is bringing back Swiss nationals from abroad to Switzerland because they were unable to organise their return journey independently.

In the first phase, the FDFA appealed to the individual to organise their return journey themselves. "We would like to thank all those who made it back to Switzerland on their own initiative," stressed the KD Director. In the second phase, Swiss tourists and travellers from all continents will be brought back to Switzerland on flights organised by the FDFA alone or in cooperation with other states.

Around 17,000 people have registered their trip in the Travel Admin App. The head of the KD called for the registered travel data to be deleted upon return so that the FDFA can continue planning with updated figures. The third phase will occur if the return journey is not possible. In that case, the FDFA would grant consular protection, said Johannes Matyassy. It would examine each individual case, provide assistance in the areas of health and housing and, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity, also provide financial support in the form of emergency loans. These are repayable in principle, but are handled with flexibility.

26.03.2020 – 09.10

  Map showing the route of the flight from Lima to Zurich
© FDFA

#flyinghome: Airplane from Lima landed in Zurich with 231 Swiss travellers

After San José, Casablanca and Bogotà, the fourth flight in the FDFA's return strategy was completed on Thursday: Early on Thursday morning, an aircraft chartered by the FDFA landed in Zurich from Lima with 314 passengers on board. Among them were 231 Swiss nationals, 56 persons resident in Switzerland and two passengers living in other European countries. The Swiss Embassy had helped many travellers in Peru to get to the airport in Lima despite the limited travel possibilities. Embassy staff there looked after the passengers until the plane could take off for Switzerland.

25.03.2020 – 08.40

In the hall of the airport of Bogotà a Swiss flag hanging at the check-in counter indicates the flight to Switzerland.
At Bogotà airport, a Swiss flag at the check-in counter shows the way back to Switzerland. © FDFA

#flyinghome: FDFA chartered plane brings 279 Swiss travellers from Bogotà to Switzerland

Early on Wednesday morning, a plane from Bogotà with 279 Swiss nationals on board landed in Zurich. The FDFA had chartered the aircraft. In addition to the Swiss travellers, it also brought back 35 citizens of other states, including French, Austrian and German nationals, from Latin America.

24.03.2020 – 20.00

 Map showing the route of the flight from Casablanca to Zurich
© FDFA

Organised return: Airplane brings travellers from Casablanca back to Switzerland

After the arrival of a plane from San José in Costa Rica early Tuesday afternoon, Swiss travellers from Casablanca landed in Zurich in the evening. Some 130 Swiss nationals were on board the aircraft, which had been chartered by the FDFA. The Swiss Embassy in Rabat had made the bookings for this return flight.

24.03.2020 – 16.00

AFS, a non-profit organisation active in intercultural student exchange that serves host families and exchange students worldwide, is organising return flights for the approximately 360 students who are still abroad or are returning from Switzerland. AFS is committed to ensuring that these young people can return to their families.

AFS can only take care of those students who are travelling with its programme. AFS is unfortunately unable to arrange for the return flights of all other students.

At this time, AFS has been able to bring home about half of all students. The Consular Directorate of the FDFA is in contact with AFS.

24.03.2020 – 14.50

A map shows the route of the flight San José to Zurich
© FDFA

Organised return: First plane with Swiss travellers from San José lands in Switzerland

Tuesday, 14.50, Zurich Airport: The first plane carrying Swiss tourists has landed. As part of the extensive repatriation action initiated by the FDFA, it brought back 151 Swiss nationals from San José in Costa Rica to Switzerland. The FDFA had supported the deployment of a larger aircraft to receive the travellers. Further flights are being planned. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis announced last week that all citizens who were no longer able to organise their trip on their own should be brought back to Switzerland. 

24.03.2020 – 14.15

Return flights: Update by Hans-Peter Lenz, Head of the Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) of the FDFA

I am happy to give you an update on the return flights organised by the FDFA:  

A first plane from San José, Costa Rica will land in Zurich this afternoon, another plane will bring back 310 blocked travellers from Colombia tomorrow morning, and on Thursday morning 310 Swiss tourists will return home from Peru as part of the current return operation.

An additional aircraft has been chartered for today to bring back the remaining 170 Swiss tourists from Morocco.

In the next days, four airplanes will leave Switzerland to bring home Swiss travelers:

  • Thursday, 26 March: Dakar/Senegal, 170 people
  • Saturday, 28 March: Santiago/Chile, 330 persons
  • Monday, 30 March: Buenos Aires/Argentina, 310 persons
  • Monday, 30 March: Lima/Peru, 310 persons (second flight)

You may have noticed that I am talking about persons and not Swiss tourists on the newly announced flights. Reality has taught us that we cannot fill some flights exclusively with Swiss travellers. The seats that are still available will be offered locally to our neighbouring countries or other European states in the spirit of a lived solidarity. On the other hand, we receive (and have already received) seats from these countries in flights from destinations that we cannot fly to ourselves due to the small number of blocked travellers. In addition, we always offer the countries we fly to to fly their people home. This offer is much used.

23.03.2020 – 18.00

FDFA launches extensive repatriation action - first flights to Costa Rica and Colombia underway

The FDFA has launched an unprecedented repatriation action. Yesterday the first flight left Switzerland for Costa Rica. An Airbus A-340 of the airline "Edelweiss" is currently on its way to Colombia. In the coming weeks the FDFA is planning dozens of additional flights to Latin America, Asia and Africa.

The FDFA estimates that some tens of thousands of Swiss travellers – tourists and business travellers – are currently abroad. Last week they were requested by the Federal Council to return to Switzerland. Around 17,000 Swiss citizens have now registered their trip on the Travel Admin App. Many of them are no longer able to leave because of local restrictions to contain the coronavirus.

The FDFA has therefore launched an unprecedented repatriation action together with Swiss/Edelweiss. A first flight departed yesterday from Zurich to San José (Costa Rica). A chartered aircraft is on its way to Bogotà (Colombia) since noon today. And another flight to Lima (Peru) is planned for tomorrow. These flights will bring a total of around 750 Swiss tourists back to Switzerland.

Difficult situation on site

This recall operation poses major challenges for the FDFA - in terms of organization and implementation. Many blocked tourists in these countries are not in the capital, but in remote places. In Peru, for example, 120 Swiss travellers are currently staying in the city of Cusco, 570 kilometres from Lima. As the roads are closed, the embassy in Peru is in the process of organising a charter flight to bring the people to Lima.

Further flights planned

In view of the large number of Swiss travellers abroad, planning for further repatriations is running parallel to the current actions. These will be organised in close cooperation with the crisis centres of other countries, in particular Switzerland's neighbouring states, in order to achieve the greatest efficiency. The FDFA expects dozens of flights to be carried out in the coming weeks.

The focus is currently on destinations in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The countries will be announced once the technical flight clarifications have been completed and the Swiss representations have been informed.

Travellers should register on App

The FDFA continues to ask all tourists to register their journey and whereabouts quickly on the Travel Admin App. All tourists who have already returned to Switzerland or who have not started their trip are requested to delete their trip from the app immediately. This allows the FDFA to concentrate its support on those persons who are currently abroad and wish to return to Switzerland. 

23.03.2020 – 16.00

750 Swiss travellers will be brought back to Switzerland in the next few days

At a press conference, the head of the FDFA's crisis management centre KMZ, Hans-Peter Lenz, explained the developments since the weekend: "Our representations on the ground and the FDFA helpline have made great efforts to gain an even better overview of the blocked Swiss tourist. 7500 travellers have registered on the Travel Admin App over the weekend. The FDFA now has more concrete details on around 15,000 Swiss travellers.

Many blocked Swiss tourists do not stay in the capital cities, but are sometimes in remote places. The Swiss representations are now facing the additional challenge to support these people in reaching the airports. The head of the KMZ illustrated this problem with an example: "In Peru there are around 120 Swiss travellers in the city of Cusco, 1,100 kilometres from Lima. As the road is closed, the representation is in the process of organising a domestic charter flight, which is a challenge due to the discontinued flight operations".

On Sunday 22 March, a flight co-financed by the FDFA departed for San José/Costa Rica, today Monday the flight will take off for Bogotá/Colombia and tomorrow Tuesday the one to Lima/Peru, provided Switzerland receives the "diplomatic clearence". These flights will bring a total of around 750 Swiss tourists back to Switzerland in an organized manner.

More flights are planned. New destinations will follow this week. "I can already announce that we will be flying to all continents within this week and next week. We will continuously increase the rhythm of organised flights", said Hans-Peter Lenz. The FDFA is prioritizing the available seats on the aircraft:

1.    Swiss tourists

2.    Swiss living abroad

3.    citizens of Switzerland's neighbouring countries

4.    citizens of other EU countries

The FDFA works around the clock to help Swiss people travelling abroad. According to Hans-Peter Lenz, this is the largest repatriation operation in Switzerland's history.

23.03.2020 – 15.15

Organized return trips - Important role of the FDFA Helpline

The Helpline of the Consular Directorate is the interface between Swiss citizens and the FDFA. It receives around 50,000 requests annually. During the holiday season, it is mainly visa problems, lost or stolen passports and identity cards that cause Swiss travellers to pick up the phone.

The worldwide crisis regarding the coronavirus is making great demands on the Consular Directorate and thus of course also on the FDFA Helpline. Last week, it increased the Helpline's staff from 13 to 55 people in order to respond by e-mail or telephone to the numerous requests made by Swiss travellers blocked by border closures and travel restrictions. Around the clock, seven days a week.

The volume of work for the consular experts has risen sharply. Since the second phase of the FDFA's strategy for the return of stranded Swiss travellers, the organized return, came into force, the FDFA Helpline has been handling daily since 21 March 2020:

  • Around 1000 calls
  • Up to 1500 mails, 8223 since 19 March 2020.
Since 19 March alone, there have been around 15,000 requests, of which the Helpline has handled almost all. That is already almost a third of the annual requests. The Consular Directorate does its best to answer all requests within the scope of its human resources.
 
The Travel Admin App has so far been downloaded over 100,000 times and over 17,000 Swiss travellers have registered their current trip. This is encouraging. Registering on the app enables the FDFA to provide rapid and efficient assistance to stranded Swiss travellers. After returning to Switzerland, the FDFA asks that the trip - and not the app - be deleted so that the Consular Directorate has accurate information for its further action.
 

22.03.2020 – 17.30

Travel Admin App: almost 17,000 trips registered

The FDFA estimates that tens of thousands of Swiss travellers are currently abroad. 16,925 people have registered their trip on the FDFA's Travel Admin App (as of 22.03.2020, 17:00). This means that the number of registered trips has more than doubled in recent days.

The FDFA calls on all tourists to register themselves, their contact numbers and their location on the Travel Admin App so they can be better supported. Those who have already returned to Switzerland should delete their travel details immediately.

Successful return flights

Thanks to interventions by the FDFA through diplomatic channels, special commercial flights - so-called ferry flights - could be carried out, for example from Morocco or Egypt. Hundreds of tourists were brought back to Switzerland on these flights last week.

  • In the night to Saturday, nine Swiss nationals were able to fly from Recife (Brazil) to London and on to Geneva. The return flight to London by charter flight was organised by Switzerland in cooperation with the British authorities.
  • In addition, the FDFA has already organised return trips in recent weeks. For example, passengers on a cruise ship could be brought back from the USA in close cooperation with Germany. And in cooperation with France, we have repatriated Swiss nationals from Wuhan in China.

Planned return flights

The FDFA is planning return flights from Colombia, Peru and Costa Rica next week (press release of 21 March 2020). Preparations for these flights are in full swing. The campaign is being implemented in close cooperation with the local representations and travel agencies in Switzerland.

The FDFA estimates that up to 800 Swiss citizens are travelling as tourists in Peru. Following an appeal by the Swiss Embassy in Lima on Saturday, 21 March 2020, 540 responses have already been received. This number is rising steadily.

Further return flights are being planned. The destinations will be announced when the technical flight clarifications have been completed and our representatives have been informed in advance. The biggest challenge at present is to get the tourists scattered around the country to the airport in time. Road and air connections in the countries concerned are often limited or completely interrupted. In Peru, for example, locals and tourists need so-called "laissez passer" to get from A to B past the checkpoints. Blocked Swiss tourists in Cusco and Arequipa must therefore be flown to Lima on a domestic flight chartered by the Swiss Embassy.

Unprecedented retrieval action

The effort required to organise such flights is considerable. A return operation is only successful if all the authorities involved in the country of departure and in Switzerland work together in a non-bureaucratic, creative and solution-oriented manner. The FDFA's main goal is clear: to bring as many blocked citizens back to Switzerland as possible. Starting tomorrow, some 60 FDFA staff in Bern alone will be working on the implementation of this unprecedented recapture operation.

Helpline EDA: Number of employees quadrupled

Since the beginning of the COVID 19 crisis, the FDFA has operated a 24-hour helpline to provide Swiss tourists abroad with the best possible support. The number of helpline staff has quadrupled. The Helpline receives up to 1000 telephone calls and over 1500 e-mails per day. The Swiss representations abroad also provide local tourists with as much support as possible under these difficult circumstances. The FDFA is in close contact with tour operators, airlines and neighbouring countries in order to overcome the major challenges together.

Coordination with neighbouring countries

The FDFA is in close contact with the crisis centres of other countries, namely our neighbouring countries. This FDFA cooperation has been ongoing since the outbreak of the Corona crisis. Good international

coordination (mutual exchange of vacant places) should enable as many fellow citizens as possible to return to Switzerland.

21.03.2020 – 18.00

AFS, an intercultural student exchange organisation that serves host families and exchange students worldwide, organises return flights for the 120-150 students who are still abroad. AFS encourages parents of exchange students to contact AFS (e-mail address hallo@afs.ch or bonjour@afs.ch) to prepare for their children's return and avoid double reservations. Some students who have been in the USA for an exchange program have already been able to return to Switzerland. The FDFA’s Consular Directorate is in contact with AFS.

21.03.2020 – 16:00

Due to border closures and travel restrictions, thousands of Swiss travellers abroad are still blocked. At a press conference, Hans-Peter Lenz, head of the Crisis Management Centre (KMZ), explained the three phases of the return strategy that the FDFA is pursuing for the return journey of stranded Swiss travellers. The first phase is the independent return journey on commercial flights. "The second phase has already begun. This is the organized departure," says the head of the KMZ. "Stranded Swiss should continue to try to return to Switzerland on commercial flights." These flights still exist, said Hans-Peter Lenz. "They are becoming more and more limited, but we still assume that every effort will be made by tourists to take advantage of these offers."

The FDFA has gained an overview of where the Swiss tourists are and has so far arranged the organised return trip in three cases. Already this evening, a group will arrive in Geneva via London with the help of an organized return journey from Recife in Brazil. Priority destinations are currently being defined on the basis of the information available. "First flights will be made to Latin America next week, depending on landing permits. There will be additional flights organized over the next two weeks."

The third phase of the FDFA's return strategy envisages that Swiss travellers who have decided to stay at their travel destination or whose return cannot be organized by the FDFA will be looked after by Swiss representations throughout the world.

In order for the FDFA to provide rapid and targeted support to Swiss travellers, information is needed. The head of the KMZ therefore emphasized that all Swiss travellers should register on the Travel Admin App with their name, contact number and location.

21.03.2020 – 14.15

Swiss nationals may return to Switzerland from Brazil

Nine Swiss nationals were able to fly from Recife (Brazil) to London in the night to Saturday. They are currently awaiting their connecting flight at Heathrow and will land in Geneva this evening.

The group of Swiss was guests on the cruise ship "Silver Shadow", which anchored off Recife at the beginning of the week and was quarantined. According to last contact, the group is healthy and well, and is looking forward to returning to Switzerland.

Switzerland organised the return charter flight to London in cooperation with the British authorities. The FDFA would like to thank the British authorities for offering seats on the charter flight and for their good cooperation and assistance in favour of Swiss tourists. This organized departure is a commercial flight. With two exceptions, the group paid for their own flight tickets.

The FDFA is in close contact with the partner services of other countries (namely our neighbouring countries). The FDFA's cooperation with foreign crisis centres has also been going very well since the outbreak of the Corona crisis. This cooperation is a key element in ensuring that as many fellow citizens as possible can return to Switzerland.

21.03.2020 – 11.00

The FDFA is aware of the hospitalization of a Swiss citizen in Marseilles. The FDFA is looking after this person within the framework of consular protection. The Consulate General of Switzerland in Marseille is in contact with the local authorities. For reasons of data and personal protection, no further details can be given.

21.03.2020 – 08.30

The FDFA brings Swiss tourists back from Latin America

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) is planning the organised return of Swiss tourists from Latin America in cooperation with the airline Edelweiss. Two charter flights are planned for next Tuesday and Wednesday, 24-25 March 2020. They should bring back to Switzerland around 630 blocked persons from Peru and Colombia.

 

Federal Council Cassis thanks the Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) via Twitter. © FDFA

The Covid 19 epidemic poses a major challenge for every person and for the state, in Switzerland and abroad. Tens of thousands of Swiss tourists and business people abroad have been taken by surprise by the measures taken due to the rapid spread of the epidemic (closure of borders, cancellation of flights, etc.). On 19 March 2020, Federal Councillor and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis called on all Swiss travellers abroad to return to Switzerland immediately before mobility becomes even more difficult. The FDFA would like to thank all those who, despite difficult circumstances, have already organised their own return journey. The personal responsibility of each fellow citizen is laid down by law.

However, not everyone was able to organise the return journey with the help of a travel agency or directly with an airline. In certain cases, due to local and travel developments, it is no longer possible to organise the return journey independently. "I have therefore commissioned our Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) to organise return journeys," explains the head of the FDFA, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis.

Over the last few days, the FDFA, together with tour operators and travel associations, has been intensively searching for ways to reach blocked tourists in order to bring them back to Switzerland. Thanks to the proven collaboration with SWISS and Edelweiss, an initial solution has been found for Latin America.

The FDFA has chartered two aircrafts. These are to fly to the capital cities of Bogota (Colombia) and Lima (Peru) on Tuesday and Wednesday. "My department is in the process of obtaining the necessary landing permits from the relevant authorities. This will enable us to bring back, as planned, our citizens who were unable to organise their own return journey". As early as Monday, 23 March, the FDFA will create the capacity for the return of around 100 Swiss tourists from Costa Rica.

Further flights planned

Further organized return trips will be planned afterwards. The FDFA is also examining cooperation with neighbouring countries in order to provide each other with free seats. The Confederation will pre-finance these charter flights. Tourists will have to pay for a flight ticket and thus bear part of the costs themselves.

The FDFA assumes that there are currently still several 10,000 Swiss travellers abroad. Only 7,710 people have registered on the FDFA's Travel Admin App. "In order to reach all those concerned, I would ask interested parties to register immediately in the TRAVEL ADMIN app.

This is the only way we can get a good picture of the situation in the world," adds Federal Councillor Cassis. The FDFA therefore calls on all tourists to register their name, contact number and place of stay. This will enable support to be provided more quickly and in a more targeted manner. The FDFA also asks those who have already returned to Switzerland to cancel the registration of their trip.

Switzerland has already organised return trips in recent weeks. For example, passengers on a cruise ship were brought back from the USA in close cooperation with Germany. And in cooperation with France, the FDFA has repatriated Swiss nationals from Wuhan in China.

20.03.2020 – 20.00

14 flights from Morocco

Over the past four days, the FDFA in Bern and the Swiss Embassy in Morocco, in cooperation with the Moroccan Foreign Ministry, have organized the return trip for several hundred Swiss nationals and passengers from other countries. A total of 14 flights were carried out together with the airlines Swiss, Edelweiss and Easyjet. In addition, the Embassy supported numerous Swiss nationals who were stranded with their vehicles at the border with Ceuta and answered hundreds of individual inquiries. The FDFA in Bern and the Swiss representation in Morocco will continue to look after stranded Swiss nationals.

 

A tweet from the Swiss Ambassador to Morocco, Guillaume Scheurer. © FDFA

20.03.2020 – 19:00

Travel advice for France

In order to contain the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the French Government has ordered that travel within France be avoided. The following are excluded from this ban 

  • persons who can prove that they have to travel for professional reasons, including for cross-border commuters
  • people who need to travel for medical reasons
  • people who need to travel for urgent family reasons
  • people who have to travel for other reasons of necessity
  • Swiss nationals who are in a third country and who are returning to Switzerland via France

The above-mentioned groups of people must be able to demonstrate the reasons for their travel. The French Government website provides information on how to demonstrate urgency.

These provisions also apply to entry into and exit from France. Other measures are possible

20.03.2020 – 18:00

Swiss Embassy in Warsaw successfully arranges return travel

In Poland the "lock down" has been in effect for a week. Since then the borders have also been closed and around 40 Swiss nationals have registered with the Swiss Embassy. The Embassy was able to ensure that most of them travelled to Switzerland by various land routes and via the last commercial flights. For other Swiss travellers, the Representation was able to agree in talks with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and an airline that Swiss nationals may travel to Switzerland in the planes that bring Polish nationals back to Poland from Switzerland.

20.03.2020 - 15.30

At a press conference, the Federal Council emphasised the difficulty of people moving around the world. The situation is not improving. "Everything is closing internationally and the measures are drastic," he explained.

The Federal Council expressed its concern about the hundreds of Swiss citizens stranded abroad. While recalling its announcement made at the beginning of the week to urge travellers to return on their own, it assured that this problem is not being ignored. Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis is following closely the situation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA and its representations are working hard and continuously to explore all possibilities to provide support to people who have no alternative and who would like to return anyway.

In addition, the FDFA has published a list of frequently asked questions and answers.

20.03.2020 – 15.00

The FDFA in contact with Swiss travellers abroad - for example via the FDFA Helpline © FDFA

19.03.2020 – 18.00

Swiss travellers abroad should register on the "Travel Admin App”

Earlier this week, the Federal Council called on Swiss travellers to return home quickly. In order to better support those who are still blocked abroad, they should register on the "Travel Admin App" of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.

The FDFA currently has information on the location and contact address of only some of the travellers abroad. This registration on the "Travel Admin App" enables the FDFA to contact the persons concerned and to provide them with information.

At the same time, all those who have already returned should delete their travel registration. This will prevent the FDFA from taking unnecessary measures.

A week ago, the Federal Council advised against non-urgent travel abroad. At the beginning of this week, it called on travellers to return home quickly. It is primarily the responsibility of the individual to organise the return journey with the help of a travel agency or directly with an airline.

The FDFA helps with the return journey by, among other things, providing assistance in obtaining landing permits, extending deadlines for flight connections or providing information via the Swiss representations on the ground. If an independent return is not possible despite all efforts, the FDFA will examine possibilities for an organized return.

19.03.2020 - 14.00

Border and international traffic restrictions are becoming ever more stringent. Switzerland favours an approach based on individual responsibility, as the Federal Council emphasised on Monday. The FDFA can provide support to Swiss citizens without the possibility of return, within the legal framework laid down by the Swiss Abroad Act. The international situation caused by the coronavirus makes action more complex. "The FDFA is in an extraordinary situation. It is working 24 hours a day and is strongly and continuously committed to the support of Swiss citizens who are stuck abroad," explains Serge Bavaud, Deputy Head of the Crisis Management Centre at the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA. "Staff in Swiss representations abroad work despite the numerous restrictions in force”. Switzerland favours a coordinated support approach and sets priorities. The FDFA is in close and permanent contact with tour operators and travel agents, other countries and crisis centres in our neighbouring countries as well as with airlines.

18.03.2020 – 15.00

With the exception of Switzerland's neighboring countries, the FDFA no longer publishes specific information on entry and exit restrictions or travel limitations within the countries in its travel advice. Since the measures against the spread of the coronavirus are constantly changing in the different countries, the travel advice cannot be kept up to date in time. The FDFA provides general information about the coronavirus in the focus "novel coronavirus (COVID-19) (de, fr, it)".

Since 13 March 2020, the Federal Council has advised against non-urgent travel abroad. Since 16 March 2020, it has recommended that Swiss travellers abroad return to their place of residence as long as this is still possible with commercial or personal means. Otherwise they risk being blocked abroad.

 

17.03.2020 – 18.00

Support for Swiss nationals abroad: Federal Councillor Cassis discusses the activities in connection with COVID-19 at the Crisis Management Centre

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis discussed the activities relating to COVID-19 at the Crisis Management Centre (KMZ). The KMZ coordinates all resources deployed by the Confederation when Swiss nationals abroad are in a crisis or emergency situation and require assistance. In connection with COVID-19, the KMZ has, among other things, organised the repatriation of Swiss nationals from the Chinese city of Wuhan.

During his visit to the KMZ, Federal Councillor Cassis underlined the Federal Council's call that Swiss tourists and business travellers should now return to Switzerland and organise their return journey independently. He also advised people to register on the Travel Admin App when travelling abroad. It provides useful information and services that are helpful not only in case of a crisis.

17.03.2020 – 12.00

Swiss tourists can return from Morocco

As a result of the COVID-19 crisis, many Swiss tourists around the world - hundreds in some countries - are facing a challenge to return to Switzerland.

Morocco is a current example. Thousands of foreign tourists are affected, including several hundred Swiss travellers. The FDFA and the Swiss embassy in Morocco are closely monitoring the situation. The FDFA is in close contact with the Moroccan authorities to facilitate a return to Switzerland, particularly with regard to the granting of flight permits. This has necessitated political steps. This commitment has borne fruit and as of today at least 5 flights chartered by companies based in Switzerland can be operated. Additional flights are planned by these airlines during the course of the week. The Swiss Embassy in Morocco is in regular contact with Swiss tourists and has informed them of these return possibilities. These are commercial flights. Swiss travellers are responsible for making the necessary reservations and for paying the corresponding fees.

Generally speaking, the Law on the Swiss Abroad (LSEtr) stipulates that every person is responsible for the preparation and execution of a stay abroad or for carrying out an activity abroad.

This personal responsibility stems from the fact that, in a crisis situation, Swiss nationals abroad must inform themselves at all times and independently of the current situation, in particular through the media, communications from the local authorities, the websites of the health authorities, the FOPH (COVID-19) and the FDFA (travel advice).

16.03.2020 – 17.00

Controls at the borders with Germany, Austria, France and Italy

From now on Switzerland will also control the borders to Germany, Austria and France. Already on Friday it introduced Schengen border controls for travellers from Italy.

Only Swiss citizens, persons with a residence permit in Switzerland and persons who have to travel to Switzerland for professional reasons will be allowed to enter the country from the four large neighbouring countries. Transit and goods traffic are also still permitted. Finally, persons in a situation of absolute necessity may also enter. This measure serves to protect the Swiss population and to maintain the capacity of the Swiss health system.

The border controls are part of the measures that the Federal Council has tightened in view of the accelerated spread of the coronavirus in order to protect the population. The Swiss government has reclassified the situation in Switzerland as an exceptional situation under the Epidemics Act.

15.03.2020 – 19.00

Restrictions when crossing the border into Germany

Because of the corona pandemic, Germany is largely closing its borders to Switzerland, France, Austria and Denmark. The measures are to come into force from 8 a.m. on 16 March 2020, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer announced at a press conference. "The border controls that will take place starting tomorrow will result in restrictions on cross-border traffic", Seehofer said. The movement of goods and the cross-border movement of commuters would still be possible, he emphasized. Anyone without a plausible reason for entering Germany would be refused entry.

14.03.2020 – 15.00

The Austrian government has issued a travel warning for Switzerland due to the spread of the coronavirus. Among other things, air and rail traffic to Switzerland will be suspended from midnight on 16 March 2020.

The FDFA has taken note of the measures announced by the Austrian government. They had been taken in cooperation with neighbouring states to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The head of the FDFA, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis, had telephone contact on this subject with his Austrian counterpart (last Thursday).

Switzerland is monitoring the effects of the measures taken by the Austrian authorities.

13.03.2020 – 16.30

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared on March 11, 2020, that the current outbreak of the coronavirus can be described as a pandemic. Today there is a risk of infection with the virus in all regions of the world. The Federal Council therefore advises to avoid non-urgent travel abroad until further notice.

Swiss nationals who are abroad should comply with the instructions and recommendations of the local authorities. In turn, the Federal Council expects foreign travellers to respect the regulations and recommendations in Switzerland.

12.03.2020 – 14.15

The FDFA has taken note of the measures announced by the US President with regard to the conditions of entry into the United States of America. The practical aspects of implementing these measures fall within the competence of the American authorities. The FDFA, together with the Swiss embassy in the United States, is examining the consequences of these restrictions.

12.03.2020 – 13.30

Four Swiss and three German nationals who were on the cruise ship "Grand Princess" off San Francisco returned to Switzerland today. The American authorities had organized a repatriation flight of passengers of the "Grand Princess" to Europe. The four Swiss nationals and three German nationals were then flown back to Switzerland from Kyiv (Ukraine) on a flight organised by the Swiss government. The conditions imposed in this case required a non-commercial flight.

The group arrived in Bern in the early morning of 12 March. The German nationals were received by the German Embassy in Bern. The Swiss nationals concerned are in good health and were able to return to their place of residence. The support of the Swiss nationals was provided within the consular protection. This action could be implemented due to the good cooperation of various states involved.

11.03.2020 – 14.00

The FDFA has no knowledge of infections of Swiss nationals abroad. Swiss representations remain open and function normally. This was stated by Hans-Peter Lenz, head of the FDFA’s Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) at a media conference.

Following the announcement of further restrictions in Italy, the FDFA yesterday amended the travel advice again to reflect the new restrictions. The FDFA's travel advice focuses on information on the security situation in the political and criminal sectors in a country. "They do not make recommendations regarding health risks", said Hans-Peter Lenz. This is the competence and responsibility of the Federal Office of Public Health.

The head of the KMZ emphasized that the tour operators and travel insurers decide on their own authority on their offers and possible cost coverage, should a trip have to be cancelled. He understood that the situation is unpleasant when people cannot take part in a trip and that this may result in costs. However, this must be settled between the tour operator and the customer who has booked a trip or between the travel insurance company and the customer.

At the media conference, the Director of the Federal Customs Administration, Christian Bock, announced that Switzerland would temporarily close nine border crossings into Italy. This would allow better control of transit traffic at the remaining border crossings.

10.03.2020 – 16.00

FDFA adapts travel advice for Italy

In order to contain the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the Italian Government has ordered that travel within Italy should be prohibited. The following are exempted from this rule

  • Persons who can prove that they have to travel for professional reasons
  • persons who need to make urgent family visits
  • persons who have to travel for medical reasons
  • tourists returning to their place of residence in Italy or abroad

These provisions also apply to entry into and exit from Italy. Further measures are possible.

At federal level, the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH informs the population about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and issues travel recommendations if necessary. Information from the World Health Organization (WHO) should also be taken into account. In addition, it is always advisable to discuss health issues with a doctor.

The FDFA's travel advice concentrates on security-related information in the areas of politics and crime. They contain an assessment of possible risks and recommend certain precautionary measures.

10.03.2020 – 14.30

Swiss staff of the humanitarian office in North Korea landed in Switzerland

Two staff members of the SDC's humanitarian office in Pyongyang returned to Switzerland today. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) had organised a flight to Vladivostok on 9 March 2020 for all foreigners wishing to leave the country. From there, the Swiss Cooperation Office’s staff and their families travelled on to Switzerland via Moscow.

“The trip went fine and luckily everyone is well. We have to be patient now, but I hope that the conditions on site will allow us to resume work in Pyongyang soon," said the head of the Cooperation Office after landing in Switzerland.

Due to the restrictive entry and import regulations in the DPRK to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the FDFA decided at the end of February to temporarily suspend humanitarian activities in the DPRK. As soon as conditions in the DPRK return to normal, the FDFA will resume humanitarian activities. In the meantime, selected national staff will ensure minimal operation of the Cooperation Office.

09.03.2020 – 13.00

COVID-19: New travel advice for Italy

The Italian government has sealed off large areas of the country to contain the spread of coronavirus. Since 8 March 2020, the Italian authorities have recommended that non-urgent private travel to the affected regions should be avoided. The affected regions are listed on the website of the Italian Ministry of Health. The Federal Office of Public Health FOPH does not impose any restrictions on entry into Switzerland.

If you are planning a trip to Italy, you should consult your tour operator for information on feasibility and the Italian embassy in Bern or the Italian Ministry of Health in Rome up-to-date details of the measures currently in force in your destination area. Follow the instructions of the Italian authorities on site.

At federal level, the FOPH informs the population about the coronavirus and issues travel recommendations. The FDFA travel advice, in contrast, focuses on security-related information in the areas of politics and crime. The FDFA passes on the FOPH's recommendations in its travel advice.

08.03.2020 – 18.00

The border between Switzerland and Italy remains open for cross-border workers

Italy has confirmed to Switzerland that the border between the two countries will remain open for cross-border workers. The Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced this to his counterpart Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis in a telephone conversation. The Italian Foreign Minister confirmed this news in a press release.

08.03.2020 – 09.00

In a tweet today, the Federal Council spokesperson informed that the Federal Council is following developments in Italy closely. The Federal Council is in contact with the authorities in Ticino and Italy in order to continuously review its measures in response to these events.

The Consulate General in Milan is in contact with Swiss nationals in northern Italy. The FDFA is closely monitoring the situation in Italy and is currently clarifying detailed questions so that information can then be included in the travel advice for Italy.

07.03.2020 – 10.00

The FDFA is aware that the US authorities have stopped the cruise ship «Grand Princess» off the coast of California (USA) because symptoms of illness were detected in passengers and crew members. The Swiss Consulate General in San Francisco is in contact with the local authorities. It has been confirmed to the FDFA that four Swiss nationals are on board the ship.

06.03.2020 – 16.00

International support

Switzerland supports the fight against coronavirus at the international level with a total of nine million CHF, five million of which is for research and four million for international health organisations.

05.03.2020 - 17.00 

Israel imposes entry restrictions on travellers from Switzerland

From 06 March 2020, new entry restrictions apply to travellers who stayed in Switzerland 14 days before entering Israel:

  • Persons with Israeli citizenship and/or residence permits in Israel will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at home.
  • All other travellers from Switzerland may only enter Israel if they can prove that they have a quarantine place in a private household in Israel.

Further information can be found on the website of the Israeli Ministry of Health. If you have any questions, please contact the Israeli Embassy in Bern.

05.03.2020 – 16.30

The FDFA Travel Advice and COVID-19

At federal level, the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH informs the population about the coronavirus and issues travel recommendations. The FDFA travel advice, on the other hand, focuses on security-related information in the areas of politics and crime. The FDFA passes on the FOPH's recommendations in the travel advice. They do not contain information on entry regulations or diseases in the individual country notes.

Many states have decreed measures on entry. These include, for example, body temperature controls, border closures, quarantine or entry bans for persons coming from a country with COVID-19 cases. Within the country of destination, local authorities may also spontaneously order measures such as the cordoning off of towns or restrictions on travel. Before starting their journey, travellers should contact the embassy or consulate of their destination country for information on the measures currently in force.

Travellers and persons staying abroad may face challenges on their return to Switzerland, such as restrictions imposed by airlines or entry regulations of transit countries.

04.03.2020 – 14.30

The cruise ship Aida Aura, which is carrying three Swiss nationals, was briefly held up in Haugesund, Norway, on Monday 2 March owing to reports that passengers may have come in contact with the virus.  No cases of coronavirus were confirmed among the passengers. Those tested were cleared of the virus and the Aida Aura left Haugesund yesterday (Tuesday).

The FDFA is monitoring the situation worldwide very closely, together with Swiss representations and the Crisis Management Centre. It is also working closely with the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the competent organisational units within the Federal Administration.  Hans-Peter Lenz, the head of the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre, stated at a press conference held in Bern on 4 March that the FDFA was not currently aware of any Swiss nationals abroad having been infected by the virus.

03.03.2020 – 16.00

There is a suspicion of COVID-19 infection on the cruise ship Aida Aura, which is currently located off the Norwegian city of Haugesund. The Swiss representation in Oslo is in contact with the local authorities. According to the shipping company, three Swiss nationals are said to be on the ship.

29.02.2020 – 14.00

The FDFA is closely monitoring developments regarding the spread of the new coronavirus. All Swiss representations abroad are open and can be reached by Swiss citizens who are staying or living abroad, said Hans-Peter Lenz, head of the FDFA's Crisis Management Centre KMZ, at a media conference in Bern. The Swiss representations and the FDFA's helpline have received and answered hundreds of enquiries from concerned citizens in recent days.

"Fortunately, no repatriations need to be planned or carried out at present," said Lenz. He pointed out that travellers ultimately decide on the preparation and execution of a trip at their own discretion and on their own responsibility. According to the Law on the Swiss Abroad, Swiss nationals cannot claim the right to an organised departure from a crisis area. It goes without saying, however, that the FDFA provides Swiss nationals abroad with assistance in crisis situations to the extent possible, the head of the KMZ underlined.

Back to top