The Covid 19 epidemic poses a major challenge for every person and for the state, in Switzerland and abroad. Tens of thousands of Swiss tourists and business people abroad have been taken by surprise by the measures taken due to the rapid spread of the epidemic (closure of borders, cancellation of flights, etc.). On 19 March 2020, Federal Councillor and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis called on all Swiss travellers abroad to return to Switzerland immediately before mobility becomes even more difficult. The FDFA would like to thank all those who, despite difficult circumstances, have already organised their own return journey. The personal responsibility of each fellow citizen is laid down by law.
However, not everyone was able to organise the return journey with the help of a travel agency or directly with an airline. In certain cases, due to local and travel developments, it is no longer possible to organise the return journey independently. "I have therefore commissioned our Crisis Management Centre (KMZ) to organise return journeys," explains the head of the FDFA, Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis.
Over the last few days, the FDFA, together with tour operators and travel associations, has been intensively searching for ways to reach blocked tourists in order to bring them back to Switzerland. Thanks to the proven collaboration with SWISS and Edelweiss, an initial solution has been found for Latin America.
The FDFA has chartered two aircrafts. These are to fly to the capital cities of Bogota (Colombia) and Lima (Peru) on Tuesday and Wednesday. "My department is in the process of obtaining the necessary landing permits from the relevant authorities. This will enable us to bring back, as planned, our citizens who were unable to organise their own return journey". As early as Monday, 23 March, the FDFA will create the capacity for the return of around 100 Swiss tourists from Costa Rica.
Further flights planned
Further organized return trips will be planned afterwards. The FDFA is also examining cooperation with neighbouring countries in order to provide each other with free seats. The Confederation will pre-finance these charter flights. Tourists will have to pay for a flight ticket and thus bear part of the costs themselves.
The FDFA assumes that there are currently still several 10,000 Swiss travellers abroad. Only 7,710 people have registered on the FDFA's Travel Admin App. "In order to reach all those concerned, I would ask interested parties to register immediately in the TRAVEL ADMIN app.
This is the only way we can get a good picture of the situation in the world," adds Federal Councillor Cassis. The FDFA therefore calls on all tourists to register their name, contact number and place of stay. This will enable support to be provided more quickly and in a more targeted manner. The FDFA also asks those who have already returned to Switzerland to cancel the registration of their trip.
Switzerland has already organised return trips in recent weeks. For example, passengers on a cruise ship were brought back from the USA in close cooperation with Germany. And in cooperation with France, the FDFA has repatriated Swiss nationals from Wuhan in China.
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