Switzerland currently exceeds the UK’s threshold number of recent new Covid-19 cases to be classified as a risk country and France currently exceeds Switzerland’s threshold. However, these nations are currently not on risk lists.
Nearly every nation now maintains a list of countries from which entry is either restricted or comes with a quarantine requirement. Switzerland’s list of quarantine countries, which contains 53 nations, was last updated on 20 August 2020.
But how does a country end up on these lists? And why are some not on them?
A key figure for deciding whether a country should be added to the list is the per capita number of recent new cases. The threshold used in Switzerland is 60 new cases per 100,000 people over the last 14 days. France, with around 74 new cases per 100,000 over the last 14 days, currently exceeds this level.
In an RTS interview, science journalist Lucia Sillig explains that exceeding new case thresholds does not automatically land a country on the risk list. In Switzerland and Germany it triggers a deeper analysis that leads to a final decision.
Antoine Flahault, an epidemiologist and member of Switzerland’s Covid-19 task force, points out that the level of testing a nation is doing is also taken into account. The more countries test the more cases they will find. Taking into account levels of testing means countries doing lots of testing are not penalised.
The rolling 7-day average test rate in France is 1.49 tests per 1,000 people, similar to the rates in Spain (1.48), Germany (1.49) and Ireland (1.52), but higher than the rates in Switzerland (0.90), Italy (0.73) and Sweden (0.92) and lower than the rates in the UK (2.39), Norway (1.98) and Denmark (5.17) – testing rates for these and other nations can be viewed here.
The practical challenges and effects of managing the flow of people across the borders between France and Switzerland are significant and accompanied by political forces.
In addition, the 14-day new case rate in Geneva, the Swiss canton with the closest links with France, is currently 87 per 100,000, higher than the rate across France (74).
The new Covid-19 case rate threshold for Germany is 50 per 100,000 over 7 days.
The UK’s threshold is 20 new cases per 100,000 people over the last 7 days. Switzerland, with around 22 new cases per 100,000 over the last 7 days, currently exceeds this level. Scotland, which is part of the UK, has added Switzerland to its Covid-19 risk list, however the rest of the country hasn’t. Why this is the case is not clear. On 22 August 2020, Scotland added Switzerland to its list of nations from where those arriving in Scotland are required to self-isolate for 14 days.
Other nations, such as Ireland, Finland and Lithuania, have added Switzerland to their compulsory quarantine lists. Some nations have lists of countries exempt from quarantine requirements rather than risk lists. The UK’s list of nations not subject to quarantine can be viewed here. At 11am on Thursday 27 August 2020, people entering the UK from Switzerland were not required to quarantine. However, this could change.
Update: on Thursday evening the UK reimposed self-isolation requirements for travellers from Switzerland.