ZURICH, Dec 23 (Reuters) – Switzerland will allow flights to Britain and South Africa to resume from Thursday, allowing visitors from the two countries where a new strain of coronavirus has emerged to return home for Christmas.
The flight connections, which were suspended at midnight on Sunday Dec. 20, can temporarily resume from Thursday, Dec. 24, the government said on Wednesday.
The flights can also be used for Swiss people stranded in Britain and South Africa to return home, it added.
Special protective measures will be applied to people who are still in quarantine to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. The government also said it would work with regional governments to coordinate a special transfer service.
Because of fears people returning to Switzerland may bring the new variant of coronavirus, airlines flying from Britain and South Africa have to apply for a temporary exemption from the flight ban.
Switzerland, which started rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, was among several countries which banned travel from South Africa and Britain because of fears over the new strain which is more infectious than previous variants.
Switzerland has also ordered South African and British visitors who arrived after Dec. 14 to go into a 10-day quarantine. The Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) has been tracing the mobile phones of British and South African visitors and has sent them text messages.
“Please help us to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus variant and render yourself into a mandatory 10 day quarantine counted from the date of arrival. Do not leave your room or residence and avoid all contacts,” BAG said in a tweet, asking people to call its hotline or visit its website https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/en/home/krankheiten/ausbrueche-epidemien-pandemien/aktuelle-ausbrueche-epidemien/novel-cov/empfehlungen-fuer-reisende/quarantaene-einreisende.html.
In cases of non-compliance, a penalty of up to 10,000 Swiss francs ($11,240) can be imposed, BAG has warned.
($1 = 0.8900 Swiss francs) (Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Toby Chopra)
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