EXPLAINED: What you should do if you need a Covid-19 test in Switzerland?

Needless to say, everyone wants to avoid the coronavirus at all costs. But where should you seek help in Switzerland if you think you may have been contaminated?

EXPLAINED: What you should do if you need a Covid-19 test in Switzerland?
Each canton has its own Covid-19 testing sites. Photo by AFP

If you suspect that you have been exposed to the virus, your first thought may be to go straight to your doctor’s office or to the nearest hospital.

But you should not do that, as not all doctors perform Covid-19 tests in their practices, and smaller hospitals may not be equipped to screen outside cases.

Can anyone get tested?

The screening criteria in Switzerland is based on the guidelines set up by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

You should get tested only if:

• You currently have the symptoms consistent with the coronavirus: high fever, shortness of breath, dry cough, or sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste.

• You have been informed by the SwissCovidApp or by contact tracing system of the cantonal medical service that you had been in contact with someone who tested positive. 

According to FOPH, the optimal time to be tested is the fifth day after contact, as before that time the results may not be accurate.

If you fall under one of the above categories, you can be tested for free.

READ MORE: Switzerland's Roche launches 15-minute coronavirus test


Where should you go to get tested?

The best resource for finding the testing facility near you is the public health service in your canton of residence.

On their websites, these health authorities have a list of places where coronavirus screening is being done, along with appointment forms that can be filled out online.

Who pays for the testing?

If FOPH’s criteria for testing is met, the government will pay the costs for all the coronavirus-related tests— not only those that detect contamination, but also the serological tests for antibodies. 

If you go for screening without a valid reason and /or a doctor’s prescription, you will be charged a flat rate of 169 francs for Covid test, and 113 francs for antibody test.

Please note that before you go, you should call the cantonal office in question on the number listed on their website, or you can phone the FOPH Infoline, 058-463-0000.

If you have just returned from a trip abroad and are feeling ill, the number to call is 058-464-44 88.

Both phone lines are manned from 6 am to 11 pm.

You will not be diagnosed or given medical advice over the phone, but will be told where to seek help in your area.

What happens if your test is positive?

Unless your condition is so dire that you require hospitalisation, you will be told to isolate at home, away from others, including your family.

The cantonal health office will contact you to explain what measures you should take to heal and to protect other members of your family from being infected. 

Health officials will monitor you until you recover fully – that is, when your repeat test comes back negative.

FOPH has produced a video that explains the process.

Please note, however, that the situation is different in the canton of Vaud, where new, more relaxed rules just went into effect. 




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Most PCR tests no longer free in Switzerland

As the quarantine obligation for contact persons was lifted from Thursday, Swiss government will continue to cover only a limited number of tests.

Only certain people, like elderly care home residents, will continue to have free PCR tests. Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/ AFP
Only certain people, like elderly care home residents, will continue to have free PCR tests. Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/ AFP

Before the new rule went into effect Wednesday at midnight, the government paid for PCR screening for contact persons — those who live with or had “regular and close” contact with someone who tested positive. 

Under the previous framework, anyone who had close contact with a Covid-positive person was required to isolate for five days. 

But since these contacts are no longer required to quarantine, their PCR tests are not covered.

However, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), there are a range of exceptions.

The government will continue to pay costs of screening for certain groups of people, including those living in elderly care facilities, hospital patients and healthcare workers, as well as people who are at a particularly high risk, such as those undergoing chemotherapy.

All the others will have to pay for their tests themselves; prices for PCR tests range from 110 to 195 francs, depending on the screening location and rapidity of results.

The Federal Council announced the lifting of contact quarantine on February  2nd, along with the end of the home-working obligation.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Swiss to end quarantine and working from home obligation from Wednesday

Other measures, like the Covid certificate requirement and restrictions on private meetings, could be scrapped from February 17th, provided Switzerland’s  epidemiological situation allows it.