What is changing in Switzerland after the COVID-19 crisis

distanciation sociale
Updated 2020-07-28 12:55

Switzerland is gradually lifting its travel restrictions for many countries. However, nationals of high-risk countries are still banned from entering. If you are looking to relocate there after the COVID-19 crisis, here is what's changing in terms of entry conditions, employment, studies, social life, etc.

What are the current regulations for entering Switzerland?

To contain the spread of COVID-19 on its territory, Switzerland has tightened its travel restrictions, prohibiting access to nationals from high-risk countries until further notice. However, citizens of 21 countries that are now safe are allowed to enter Switzerland since July 20 2020. These include Canada and Australia, while the USA remains on the list of high-risk countries. Regardless of their country of origin, travellers are required to self-isolate for a period of 10 days upon their arrival. They must also notify their presence to the competent cantonal authorities within 2 days of their arrival in Switzerland. Failing to comply with these regulations will make you liable to a fine of up to CHF 10,000. For more information, visit the official website of the Swiss Confederation or call 41 58 464 44 88.

Have there been any visa changes recently?

Cantonal authorities are currently processing visa applications for different nationalities. If you, therefore, wish to emigrate to Switzerland, whether for work, study or business, you can apply for a visa at the Swiss representation in your home country. However, those wishing to study in Switzerland for a period of less than 90 days will not be admitted. They can still enter Switzerland as long as they have assurance for a residence permit or an entry permit issued by Swiss authorities. Find out more on the State Secretariat for Migration website.

Is it easy to find work in Switzerland following the crisis?

With the COVID-19 crisis, the unemployment rate in Switzerland rose from 2.5% in February to 3.4% in May 2020, according to official figures. According to Swiss authorities, a more significant increase is expected by the end of the year. Regarding job vacancies in Switzerland, there was a 26% drop during the same period. The crisis is having an impact on most industries, mainly on tourism, retail, personal services, catering, followed by administrative services, finance, metallurgy and watchmaking, as well as machinery and construction. Health, technology and natural sciences seem to be the least affected sectors although the number of vacancies is falling. It's also worth noting that these rates vary from one region to another. For example, the French-speaking and Italian-speaking regions of Switzerland seem to be more affected than the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Youth unemployment rate (for those aged under 25) also rose to 3.4%. According to official statistics, both expatriates and the Swiss alike have loss job losses. In fact, finding a job or an internship in Switzerland after the crisis is likely to be more challenging, given the uncertainty of the situation. A study by Deloitte measures the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on small and medium-sized businesses. According to results, 18% of entrepreneurs had to close down their business while 21% have seen a significant drop in their business and fear the worst. Only 10% of entrepreneurs say that the crisis to boosted their business, while 21% say that their business remained unchanged. Besides, more than half of the Swiss workforce now have reduced working hours, while 2% have been laid off.

How has the local healthcare system performed during the crisis?

Although Switzerland has one of the world's best health systems, providing quality healthcare, the number of COVID-19 cases increased rapidly, probably due to its proximity to Italy. At first, hospitals struggled to meet the growing demand for COVID-19-related care, but they quickly increased their critical care capacity. Some of them have even been refurbished for more efficient use of the available space. A study by the Deep Knowledge Group of the EU Business School rates Switzerland as the world's safest country during the COVID-19 crisis, along with Germany, thanks to its efficient quarantine, control and detection systems, as well as measures taken at federal and cantonal levels. Besides, you are probably aware that Switzerland has a large network of highly-qualified and skilled health professionals. A hospital battalion of the Swiss army was also deployed to assist civil hospitals. The Hospital University of Geneva relied on a digital monitoring system for patients with COVID-19. This system allows the monitoring of patients remotely so that they don't have to go to the hospital. Telemedicine has also become more widespread in Switzerland with online medical appointment booking, consultations and prescriptions.

Has anything changed regarding universities and schools?

Schools in Switzerland reopened on May 11 with social distancing as the new norm. However, classrooms now have a reduced number of students and schedules. Students only go to school twice a week. However, these measures vary from one canton to another, which means that some schools across the country are operating normally. The wearing of masks at schools is only compulsory in a few cantons, including Zurich and Lucerne. However, it is recommended that students do not share food and snacks at school. High-risk teachers and students are advised to consider distance learning. Regarding higher education, the 2020-2021 academic year is starting in September. However, Swiss universities are expecting student attendance of 50% at the most. Arrangements have, therefore, been made to ensure hybrid learning.

How is the real estate market following the crisis?

The number of real estate transactions in Switzerland has dropped significantly since the start of the crisis. A survey carried out by the firm EY shows the concern of real estate specialists. According to another study, there was a 37% drop in the number of new ads for property sales compared to the same period in 2019. The number of rental ads also dropped by 18% in April. However, a 1.8% rise is expected regarding residential property prices by the end of 2020. Besides, low-interest loans offered by Swiss banks have remained unchanged, which is a pretty good sign for potential buyers. The number of building permit applications has recently increased by 20% after the 39% drop since the start of the pandemic. The Swiss real estate market is, therefore, showing signs of recovery.

Has the cost of living in Switzerland changed because of the crisis?

Price rises haven't been reported yet in Switzerland. However, the inflation rate is expected to drop further in the coming months, so this could have an impact on the cost of living. However, Switzerland remains one of the world's most expensive destinations for expatriates, according to Mercer and ECA International reports.

How about lifestyle? Have there been major changes in habits following the sanitary crisis?

Since July 6, 2020, the wearing of masks is compulsory in public transports. In some cantons, such as Vaud and Jura, the wearing of masks is also compulsory in shops. Others are also considering the application of this rule in secondary schools from the next semester. Although lockdown measures have been lifted, public and private gatherings with more than 1,000 people, including sporting events and festivals, are banned at least until the end of August. Some cantons have implemented stricter regulations for gatherings. Many professional and cultural events have also been postponed. Protective measures are still being applied in shops, restaurants and museums, and it is strongly recommended to abide by them. Restaurants are also allowed to request the phone numbers of people coming in groups of more than 4 for tracing in case of contamination.

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