Air transport leaders slam Swiss Omicron travel restrictions

Omicron has put paid to the airline industry's earlier optimism over the opening of US borders. © Keystone / Christian Beutler

Zurich airport and Swiss International Air Lines have both criticised the government's decision to impose travel restrictions to combat the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.

This content was published on December 3, 2021 minutes

Last week, the government banned direct flights to southern Africa and imposed a 10-day quarantine requirement on travelers from a growing list of countriesExternal link.

On Friday afternoon, the government announced an end to the quarantine rules on December 4. It will be replaced by an enhanced testing regime.

Scientific data on the Omicron variant is in short supply, it has given rise to alarm for displaying a greater number of mutations than previous coronavirus strains.

While other countries have also brought in border restrictions, Zurich airport CEO Stephan Widrig complained on Friday that Switzerland has “the toughest regime in Europe”.

SWISS CEO Dieter Vranckx said the new restrictions had significantly dampened recovery prospects for the airline. “You can’t simply stop this virus at the border,” he said at a press conference at Zurich airport.

Both air transport bosses called on air travel restrictions to be lifted and replaced by the previous vaccination and mask wearing system of containing the pandemic.

Canton Zurich economics minister Carmen Walker Späh warned that tourism will suffer greatly as a result of the Omicron measures. “If vaccinated passengers have to quarantine for ten days then nobody will come,” she said.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has estimated that airlines will lose more than $200 billion (CHF185 billion)External link in 2020 and 2021 as a result of the pandemic.

“Unfortunately, government responses to the emergence of the Omicron variant are putting at risk the global connectivity it has taken so long to rebuild,” said IATA Director General, Willie Walsh, on Thursday.

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