Covid-19 For Members

Travel: What to do if you get Covid when visiting Switzerland?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 26 Aug, 2021 Updated Thu 26 Aug 2021 13:08 CEST
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Getting sick away from one’s home and doctor is every traveller's nightmare, especially with something as contagious and potentially dangerous as coronavirus. This is where you can turn for help in Switzerland.


Please note: This article is now out of date due to a change in Switzerland's Covid rules. Click here for an up to date version. 

Nobody wants to contract Covid on holidays — or anywhere else, for that matter.

But if you start feeling symptoms you suspect could be coronavirus, you must act quickly, no matter where you are. This is so you can get treatment if needed, and — just as importantly — don’t spread the virus to others.

First: get tested (but make sure to wear a mask on the way to and from the testing centre)

As The Local reported in July, the free tests are for citizens, residents and most cross-border workers – i.e. anyone with compulsory health insurance in Switzerland. 

Obviously, tourists and visitors will not have compulsory Swiss insurance – but can still get a test if they are from any EU/EFTA countries. 

The reason for this is the so-called joint institution, under the Health Insurance Act (KVG), which cover the costs for tourists from the EU/EFTA states for health related matters when they are in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: How tourists and visitors in Switzerland can get a free Covid test

The costs are then later recouped from the tourists’ home countries. 

Jonas Montani, a spokesperson from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, confirmed this to The Local Switzerland. 

“The federal government covers all costs for rapid tests performed at a test centre, by a physician, in hospitals or pharmacies (for residents and citizens). 

“In the case of persons who do not have compulsory health insurance under the Federal Health Insurance Act (KVG) (i.e. tourists, for example), the joint institution is responsible under Article 18 KVG. 

“This means that the service provider who carries out the analysis for Sars-CoV-2 submits the invoice to the joint institution, which then invoices the federal government on a quarterly basis.”

However, if you come from a country outside of EU / EFTA (the so-called third nations), including the UK, you will have to pay for the test on-site, get a receipt, and try to claim refund from your health or travel insurance once you are back home.

Costs vary from centre to centre and depending on what kind of test you’re having: antigen or PCR.


Stay put

In case your test turns out to be positive, the follow-up will depend on your condition.

If you are feeling well or have only mild symptoms that don’t necessitate medical treatment, you will be told to isolate — pretty much the same process as any positive Swiss resident would have to undergo.

As defined by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), isolation means you must remain in a room by yourself and away from other people. If you are a tourist, this means a hotel room or another accommodation where you don’t mingle with others.

Your food should be delivered and left at the door.

Under no circumstances should you go out for any reason and, even less so, return to your country until cleared by health officials.

Health authorities in the canton where you were tested will be in touch with you to let you know when it is safe to end your isolation. Usually this happens after 10 or seven days — but only if your condition doesn’t deteriorate.


What if you get really sick?

If you require medical treatment, including hospitalisation, you will be admitted to a hospital in your area – provided there are enough beds in the intensive care department or other units treating Covid patients.

That’s because hospitals are filling up quickly due to increased number of infections.

READ MORE: Swiss hospitals see sharp increase in the number of Covid patients in intensive care

If a local hospital can’t accommodate you, you will be transferred to another medical facility which has available space.

Again, this is the same procedure as for residents of Switzerland.

What about medical / hospital bills?

As mentioned above, you don’t have to pay anything if you have a EU / EFTA insurance card.

Otherwise, you would have to pay the bill upon your release from the hospital, which should provide you with detailed paperwork documenting your treatment and costs. You can then use this to claim reimbursement from your insurance when you return to your country.

If you are unsure how to proceed or need other information, these are the numbers to call in Switzerland:

Coronavirus infoline: +41 58 463 00 00 (every day from 6am to 11pm)

Cantonal hotlines



Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2021/08/26 13:08

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