In its press conference on October 28th announcing new coronavirus restrictions, Health Minister Alain Berset said that in order to curtail the spread of the disease, “it is important to detect as many infections as possible”.
Rapid antigen tests (RAT) will be available from November 2nd and will be used along with the conventional testing method, the PCR test.
According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), “the current approach is that anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus should be tested immediately. The goal of this strategy is to detect as many infections as possible. This is the only way of systematically breaking chains of infection, which is key to managing the epidemic”,
How is the RAT different from the PCR?
Rapid antigen tests yield a result within 15 to 20 minutes, while with the PCRs the result is generally available within 24 to 48 hours.
RAT “will make it easier to access testing and allow more people to be tested. This will enable more positive cases to be detected sooner”, FOPH said.
Both tests are done by means of a nose and throat swab.
In addition to doctors’ offices, as well as hospitals and test centres, rapid antigen tests can also be carried out in pharmacies, although Berset said that in the beginning the availability of these tests “will be limited”.
Even though RAT yields a less reliable result, “FOPH believes it makes sense to use rapid antigen tests” as PCR testing capacity is currently limited.
“This is because significantly more people can be tested and go into isolation if the result is positive”.
Who pays for RAT and PCR tests?
The government covers the costs of both tests, but only under certain conditions:
• You have symptoms of Covid-19.
• You receive a notification from the SwissCovid App that you’ve been in contact with an infected person.
• The cantonal health office or a doctor orders you to have a test because you are in quarantine following close contact with an infected person.
However, you will have to pay for the test yourself if:
- You need a negative test result for travel, or after returning from travel.
- You are being tested at the request of your employer.
- The test is carried out abroad.
The price of the test may vary, so it’s best to ask ahead of time.
FOPH published a list of all the testing sites in Switzerland, by canton.