COVID-19 – FAQ

On March 19, 2020 The Department of State has issued a Global Level 4 Travel Advisory – DO NOT TRAVEL

For all Alerts and Messages from the U.S. Embassy Bern, please click here

In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.  U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel.

International commercial flight options currently exist in Switzerland and Liechtenstein.  U.S. citizens who wish to return to the United States should make commercial arrangements as soon as possible unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.  The U.S. government does not anticipate arranging repatriation flights in Switzerland and Liechtenstein at this time.

There is currently only one direct flight operating from Zurich to Newark (Swiss International Airlines).
Please make your travel arrangements directly with the Airline.

Do not schedule a flight departing from another neighboring Schengen country. You may not be able to cross the Swiss border!

Visit the DHS website for Arrival Restrictions in the U.S.: https://www.dhs.gov/news/2020/03/17/fact-sheet-dhs-notice-arrival-restrictions-china-iran-and-certain-countries-europe 

In furtherance of Presidential Proclamations 9984, 9992, 9993, and 9994 which bans the entry of non-U.S. citizens who are from or recently been in China, Iran, or certain European countries, the Department of Homeland Security issued a Notice of Arrival Restrictions requiring American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate families who are returning

Presidential Proclamation 9984 restricts and suspends the entry into the United States, as immigrants or nonimmigrants, of all aliens who were physically present within the Schengen Area (which includes Switzerland and Lichtenstein) during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States.

This proclamation does not apply to:

  • U.S. citizens
  • Lawful permanent residents (LPR) of the United States
  • Children of a U.S. citizen or LPR
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens and LPRs
  • Parents or legal guardians of unmarried U.S. citizen or LPR children under 21 years of age
  • Foreign government officials and their immediate family members on official travel
  • For additional exemptions please refer to Presidential Proclamation 9984
If travel restrictions prevent you from departing the Schengen area before the expiration of your visa, you MUST contact the immigration authorities in your canton of residence:
Contact the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration Helpline if you have any concerns or questions in regards to your Swiss Visa: https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/en/home/aktuell/aktuell/kontakte_helpline.html

Visit the Swiss Secretariat of Migration website for the current regulations: https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/de/home/aktuell/aktuell/faq-einreiseverweigerung.html

Visit the FAQ website from the Swiss Migration Office: https://www.sem.admin.ch/sem/en/home/themen/einreise/faq.html
Inquiries can be directed to the Swiss Migration office at: corona@sem.admin.ch

There is the possibility to enter Switzerland for important business appointments which cannot be postponed and have to be in person. At the moment a special entry permit is needed to enter Switzerland for business travel. This application can be sent directly to corona@sem.admin.ch, including for example the following documents: appointment confirmation, copy of passport, travel itinerary, reason for urgency of appointment / visit, reason for the need to be present personally, and alike.

Third country nationals may cross the border into France if they meet one of the following criteria:
  1. Having their primary residence in France or in the EU or assimilated countries who are holders of French or EU residence permit/valid long-stay visa, accompanied by their spouse and children;
  2. In transit to reach their country of origin who are holders of travel document to their country of origin and remaining in the international area with no intention to enter the national territory;
  3. Healthcare workers supporting the fight against Covid-19;
  4. Goods carriers, including seamen;
  5. Flight and cargo crews, or travelling as a passenger to their departure base;
  6. Diplomatic mission staff, or international organizations staff working in headquarters or offices located in France, who are holders of a special residence permit or a type D promae visa; and
  7. Cross-border workers at internal land borders.
International travelers are required to present an international travel certificate to enter or transit mainland France – Travel Certificate (PDF 30KB)
  • It must be presented before boarding a ferry, train or plane to France, and again upon arrival.
  • The traveler is required to declare their purpose for traveling to or through France.
  • The form is signed by the traveler and does not require endorsement from the Embassy.
  • The authorized scenarios include transit as previously defined – Individuals in transit to reach their country of origin who are holders of a travel document to their country of origin and remaining in the international area with no intention to enter the national territory”.
For more information please visit the U.S. Embassy France website – Covid-19 information

Center for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] requirements for importing human remains depend upon if the body has been embalmed, cremated, or if the person died from a quarantinable communicable disease.

At this time, COVID-19 is a quarantinable communicable disease in the United States and the remains must meet the standards for importation found in 42 Code of Federal Regulations Part 71.55 and may be cleared, released, and authorized for entry into the United States only under the following conditions:

  • The remains are cremated; OR
  • The remains are properly embalmed and placed in a hermetically sealed casket; OR
  • The remains are accompanied by a permit issued by the CDC Director. The CDC permit (if applicable) must accompany the human remains at all times during shipment.
    • Permits for the importation of the remains of a person known or suspected to have died from a quarantinable communicable disease may be obtained through the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine by calling the CDC Emergency Operations Center at 770-488-7100 or emailing dgmqpolicyoffice@cdc.gov.

Please see CDC’s guidance for additional information.

For more information regarding Consular Reports of Death Abroad visit our Website: Death of a U.S. Citizen


More FAQs ...

You will find this information on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Website at:
https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus-tax-relief-and-economic-impact-payments

Should you have specific questions in this regard, please contact the IRS directly.

Information is available on the United States Census Bureau Website at:
https://www.census.gov/

Should you have specific questions in this regard, please contact the United States Census Bureau directly.


Resources in Switzerland and Liechtenstein during COVID-19

This part provides a variety of useful links and contact details relating to the new coronavirus: cantonal authority websites, Infoline phone numbers and other useful websites.


Protect Your Health

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is responsible for public health in Switzerland; it develops Switzerland’s health policy and works to ensure that the country has an efficient and affordable healthcare system in the long term. Find out everything you need to know about its tasks and the objectives of its work here: Federal Office of Public Health

For information about the Office of Public Health in Liechtenstein (Amt für Gesundheit), click here

In Switzerland, call +41 58 463 00 00, 24/7
Please note: This Infoline does not provide medical advice. Due to the high volume of calls you may experience delays in getting through.

In Liechtenstein, call +423 236 76 82

You have symptoms and you are unsure what action to take? Answer all the questions here to the best of your knowledge.
At the end of the check, you will receive recommendations on what to do.

Find your nearest specialist or general practitioner quickly and free of charge: doctorfmh.ch is the official, comprehensive list of doctors in Switzerland. With more than 30,000 entries, it is updated daily.

The cantonal authorities are responsible for many matters/tasks relating to the coronavirus outbreak. Links to cantonal websites can be found at ch.ch, where you will find information on the new coronavirus along with relevant contact details.

We also recommend you consult the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for specific information about the disease, as well as another symptom-checker.

Federal Office of Public Health and ch.ch provide information about the mandatory insurance requirement, benefits and tariffs, and give a health insurance oversight.

For information about health insurance in Liechtenstein, click here

Your wellbeing is more than physical. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues may arise as the confinement period continues. These U.S.- and Swiss-based resources may be of help:

  • Police, dial 117 (same in Liechtenstein)
  • Fire service, dial 118 (same in Liechtenstein)
  • Ambulance, dial 144 (same in Liechtenstein)
  • European Emergency Number, dial 112 (same in Liechtenstein) 

Self-quarantine and social distancing help reduce the spread of COVID-19, but for many dealing with domestic violence, staying home may put people at risk. External factors such as financial strain and stress compound the issue, and when the community is encouraged to remain in their homes, an abuser may take advantage of an already harmful situation. If you are experiencing domestic abuse, call 117 in an emergency and visit Victim Support Switzerland


Know the Law and Recommendations

New coronavirus: Federal government measures

Permitted since 28 May

  • All forms of religious services and religious celebrations, privately or in a community

Permitted from 30 May

  • Gatherings in public of groups of up to 30 people (in public spaces, promenades and parks)

Open/permitted from 1 June

  • Gathering of signatures in public spaces

Open/permitted from 6 June

  • Establishments such as casinos, amusement parks, animal parks, zoos and botanic gardens, spas, swimming pools
  • Summer tourism businesses such as campsites, mountain rail and cableways, toboggan runs, bike tracks and rope parks
  • Holiday camps for up to 300 children and young people
  • Hospitality sector: activities such as pool, darts and live music performances
    • Condition: Consumption only when seated (does not apply to discos, nightclubs and the like)
    • Restricted opening hours
  • Hospitality sector: Visits to restaurants for groups of more than 4 people
    • Conditions: Contact details of at least one member of the group must be taken
    • Consumption only when seated (does not apply to discos, nightclubs and the like)
    • Restricted opening hours
  • Political and civil society demonstrations of up to 300 people (Condition: one person must be designated to compliance with precautionary measures)
  • Classroom teaching at upper secondary and vocational schools, higher education and other educational institutions
  • Sports training involving physical contact such as wrestling, boxing, American football and rugby
  • Sports competitions with up to 300 people (Condition: one person must be designated to compliance with precautionary measures)
  • Events with up to 300 people

Permitted from 15 June

  • Border crossings to and from Germany, France and Austria

Permitted from 1 July

  • Company meetings (period of notice for convening meetings at which participants exercise their rights in writing or electronically)
  • Sports competitions involving close physical contact
  • Gatherings in public of groups of more than 30 people
  • Political and civil society demonstrations of more than 300 people
  • Events with more than 300 people

Keep your distance from other people. Infection with the new coronavirus can occur through close (less than 2 metres) contact with someone who is already infected. You can protect yourself and others by keeping your distance.

  • Avoid groups of people.
  • Leave space between you and the person in front of you when standing in line (for example at the checkout, post office or canteen).
  • At meetings leave a seat free between you and the person next to you.
  • Stay away from close family and friends at especially high risk.
  • Do not pay visits to care homes or hospitals.

Keep your distance on public transport

The public transport network is vital to the functioning of the economy, and is relied on by many people. The basic service will therefore be provided as normal. However, if a lot of people use public transport at the same time, they cannot keep their distance from each other and so risk becoming infected with the new coronavirus.

Avoid using public transport
If possible, walk or ride to work.
If you have to use public transport, follow the rules on hygiene and social distancing.

People at especially high risk should not use public transport.

Depending on what we have just touched, our hands are not clean. Infectious droplets from coughing and sneezing can get onto your hands. They can then get into your system when you touch your mouth, nose or eyes. It’s therefore important not to shake hands. We can also protect ourselves from infection by:

  • Not shaking hands.
  • Not kissing to greet people.
  • Not touching your nose, mouth and eyes.

Handwashing is of crucial importance when it comes to hygiene. You can protect yourself from infection by washing your hands regularly with soap and water.

When should I wash my hands?

As often as possible and in particular:

  • before preparing food
  • before a meal
  • before feeding children
  • after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • every time you come home
  • after using public transport
  • after close contact with materials, equipment or personal items used by people who are ill
  • before putting in or removing contact lenses
  • after taking off a face mask
  • after going to the toilet
  • after changing nappies or accompanying a child to the toilet
  • after putting something in the bin
  • if your hands are dirty

How do I wash my hands properly?

It’s very important to use the right method. Soap helps to render the virus harmless. But only if you get the combination of soaping, rubbing, rinsing and drying right. Here’s how:

  • Wet your hands under running water.
  • Soap your hands – if possible with liquid soap.
  • Rub your hands together until you get a lather. Don’t forget to rub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, under your fingernails and your wrists.
  • Rinse your hands thoroughly with running water.
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel, if possible a disposable paper towel or a cloth roller towel.

What else do I have to remember?

  • It is best not to wear any rings. If you are wearing a ring: take it off before washing your hands, clean it with soap and dry it well.
  • Take care of your skin: damaged, chapped skin can be a hotbed of germs. Use cream to moisturise your skin.
  • Keep your fingernails short and regularly use a nailbrush to stop dirt from collecting under your nails.

Blowing your nose, sneezing, spitting and coughing can all spread viruses if you don’t follow the rules.

How can I reduce or avoid the risk of spreading the virus?

  • Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing, ideally with a paper tissue.
  • If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm rather than into your hands. If you do use your hands, wash them thoroughly with water and soap immediately af-terwards if possible.
  • Only use paper tissues (not cloth handkerchiefs) to blow your nose.
  • If you have to spit, do so into a tissue.
  • Wash your hands every time you cough, sneeze or spit.
  • Use a paper tissue, and use it only once. Then dispose of it.

But if you have one or more of the more common symptoms, it is quite possible that you have contracted the new coronavirus.

This means you should:

  • Stay at home.
  • Contact a doctor or hospital and ask whether you need to be tested.
  • Read the instructions on self-isolation and then follow them closely.

If you are feeling unwell, experiencing health complaints or symptoms not associated with the new coronavirus:

Health complaints, illnesses and symptoms not associated with the new coronavirus still have to be taken seriously and treated appropriately. Seek assistance and don’t wait too long: Call a doctor.

There is no need to wear a face mask in public if you are in good health. However, we recommend you do so in the following situations:

  • You are unable to maintain a distance of 2 metres from other people, e.g. on public transport.
  • You are using a service for which the wearing of a mask is one of the required precautionary measures.

Please note:

Keeping your distance and washing your hands are still the most effective protective measures.

Carry on working from home if you are able to do. That way you are reducing your interaction with others and preventing the spread of the virus.

Employers must establish a set of precautionary measures for employees in the workplace to ensure that hygiene and social distancing rules can be observed.

Employers must allow people at especially high risk to work from home. If a person at especially high risk is only able to carry out their work at the workplace, the employer must make every effort to ensure that the recommended rules on hygiene and social distancing (washing hands and keeping distance) can be respected. If an employer is unable to fulfil those requirements, they must place the employee on leave while continuing to pay their wages.


Well being

The following resources are available to ensure you have food and other necessities for daily life, even when in confinement.

Migros, Coop, Denner, Lidl, Aldi, SPAR can be found throughout Switzerland and Liechtenstein and are usually open from Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 7 pm. Bigger train stations, airports and tourist areas offer extensive opening hours and Sunday shopping.

LeShop.ch , Coop@Home ,and HelloFRESH are available for online grocery and cooking ingredients delivery.

takeaway.com , eat.ch ,and Uber Eats are available for online food delivery and offer a wide range of different cuisines

Pet-owners are allowed to take their pet for a walk in their neighborhood, provided they keep a safe distance from others. You should have a plan for your pet if you get sick and are unable to provide care. Have extra food on hand and be ready to make the handover if necessary. Pet food can be purchased at any bigger grocery store. Alternatively, Fressnapf and Qualipet remain open. Most vets are not performing elective services at this time. Many of the vets that remain open have changed their hours and procedures. Conduct an online search to see vets and their services in your area.

If you are feeling like you want to connect with other U.S. citizens or the English speaking community in your area, there are a number of resources still going strong at this time.

Check out Swiss-American Organizations for a list of many opportunities to connect.

English speaking Churches of different denomination can be found online

Travelers and residents are urged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. The Department uses these Alerts to convey information about terrorist threats, security incidents, planned demonstrations, natural disasters, etc.