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COVID-19

Coronavirus: Why are Swiss residents going to France to get tested?

As PCR tests are cheaper in France, people from the Swiss canton of Geneva are heading over the border to get the nasal swab. A third of those tested in French border centres are from Switzerland.

Coronavirus: Why are Swiss residents going to France to get tested?
Residents of Geneva get tested in France to save money. Photo by Valery Hache / AFP

This is putting a new spin on the old ‘shopping across the border’ phenomenon: instead (or maybe in addition to) stocking up on groceries, Genevans have been going neighbouring regions of France to save money on coronavirus testing.

The same procedure that costs between 100 and 200 francs if given to people without symptoms in Switzerland, costs 70 euros (just over 77 francs) for non-residents in France, according to a report by RTS public broadcaster. Testing for all purposes is completely free to people registered in the French health system.

Any resident of Switzerland who lives within 30 kilometres of a French testing site — which many Geneva and Vaud residents do — can hop over to France for the test.

People from Switzerland represent about a third of test customers in border-area laboratories.

“I live five minutes from the border”, a woman from the Meyrin section of Geneva told RTS.  “I already buy my meat for half the price in France, so why not a PCR test if it saves me money?”

Geneva authorities say they are aware of the cross-border testing tourism but they see no problem as long as all the positive cases are reported in Switzerland.

This trend may end or at least slow down as Switzerland announced last week its plan to give each resident five free coronavirus tests per month starting in mid-March. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How will Switzerland’s free coronavirus ‘self-testing’ scheme work?

And earlier this year, Switzerland has introduced a free nationwide coronavirus testing programme for people without symptoms in an effort to prevent large-scale outbreaks. 

From January 28th, “the federal government pays for persons without symptoms to be tested so that those who are particularly vulnerable can be better protected and local outbreaks of infection can be contained early on”, authorities said.

However, anyone who needs a test to travel abroad, or be able to come out of the quarantine early, will still have to pay the cost themselves.

 READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How does Switzerland’s mass testing scheme work?

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COVID-19

‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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