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Visitors from outside the EU must provide proof of vaccination, and all fairgoers must contend with complex rules laid out by the Swiss government. Photo: Art Basel.
Visitors from outside the EU must provide proof of vaccination, and all fairgoers must contend with complex rules laid out by the Swiss government. Photo: Art Basel.

Art Basel, Hobbled by New Covid-19 Restrictions, Forges Ahead

Art Basel, which in June 2020 was forced to cancel its in-person iteration and go online as Covid-19 ravaged the globe, has encountered new restrictions related to the virus’s surging Delta variant as the fair approaches the opening of its flagship Swiss edition, The Art Newspaper reports. The event, which is to take place September 21–26 (the first three days are preview days), has been complicated by the United States’ advisory to its citizens, issued August 30, that they not travel to Switzerland owing to a rise in Covid-19 cases there. Additionally, the fair must abide by the complex rules laid out by the Swiss government relating to mass gatherings—rules regarding which many attendees may not yet be aware.

Among the restrictions fair organizers must contend with are regulations requiring a valid Swiss or EU Covid-19 Certificate, which is issued to people who are either fully vaccinated, can supply a recent negative Covid-19 test, or have proof of sufficient antibodies due to recent recovery from the virus. Visitors outside of Europe must submit proof of vaccination and a copy of their passport or photo ID to the email address covid-cert@bs.ch by September 13, after which Swiss authorities will slot the information into a Swiss Covid-19 certificate, which submitters may collect in paper form at the Covid-19 Certification Center at the fair from September 17 onward. Those seeking to collect their certificates must provide the original submitted documents (proof of vaccine plus passport or photo ID) at the certification booth.

Further confounding entry for non-Swiss visitors and participants is the Swiss government’s ruling that the Astra Zeneca Covid-19 vaccine is insufficient to allow entry to large-scale live events, even though it is sufficient to allow entry into Switzerland. To date, the government has only approved the Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines as allowing entry to large live events. Confusing the matter yet more, the EU recognizes the Astra Zeneca vaccine, so those having received it in an EU country may apply for their digital EU Covid-19 certificate, which will allow them to enter the fair without undergoing a test. Those having received the Astra Zeneca vaccine outside the EU must apply for the Swiss Covid-19 certificate mentioned above, and must additionally either undergo a PCR test on arrival at the fair or take an antigen test. For exhibitors, only one test is required (provided it is negative), with the fair covering the cost. Visitors must pay for their own PCR tests, which are good for seventy-two hours, or alternately may undergo a lateral-flow test at the fair entry. Costing roughly $40 apiece, these tests must be repeated every forty-eight hours, but yield results within fifteen minutes. Art Basel officials recommend pre-booking a test slot, but they will also be available on a walk-in basis. Non-EU/EFTA citizens with any vaccine other than Moderna, Pfizer, or Johnson & Johnson (e.g., Sinovac) must also undergo on-site testing.

Those unfortunate enough to test positive for Covid-19 on entering the fair will be required to quarantine for ten days. Basel hotels are required by city officials to set aside rooms for this purpose. Visitors and participants are urged to take out travel insurance to cover the cost of a hotel quarantine, should one be necessary, and to be prepared for the Swiss government to reach out directly to engage in contact tracing.

Finally, masking is mandatory for all Art Basel visitors and participants.

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