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COVID-19 VACCINES

These Swiss companies now require Covid certificates from their employees

As vaccination against the coronavirus is not compulsory in Switzerland, employers have no right to demand that their workforce gets inoculated. And yet a growing number of companies do.

HUG's medical personnel must have a Covid certificate
“An obligation to protect”: Geneva’s university hospital has a Covid certificate requirement in place. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

The Covid vaccination is creating somewhat of a legal and ethical conundrum in Switzerland: on one hand, forcing someone to get jabbed against their will is unlawful, but on the other, companies have a legal duty to protect the health and safety of their employees.

In this context, an increasing number of Switzerland’s employers are demanding the Covid certificate from their workers.

Here’s an overview.

Novartis

From October 4th, everyone on the premises of pharmaceutical giant Novartis, must be in possession of a valid Covid certificate. As an alternative, they must undergo a rapid antigen test on site, which is then valid for two days for access to the area.

This means employees without a certificate must be screened on average three times a week, which can become quite expensive as testing will no longer be free from October 11th.

“Our main concern is to ensure the health and safety of our employees and everyone else at our sites,” said a Novartis spokesman, explaining the new access rules.

Those who refuse to comply will have to work from home.

Swiss Post

It is the first public company to require the certificate from certain employees.

However, this obligation “is applied selectively and in individual cases only — for example, when employees distribute letters and parcels in a hospital”, according to the Post.

Insurance companies

As of October 11th, the reinsurance group Swiss Re will also be introducing a certificate requirement in all its sites across the country.

“This will allow the employees to return to a situation that comes as close to ‘normal’ as possible”, company spokesperson said, adding that it will no longer be necessary for employees to wear masks — provided that a minimum distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained.

Insurance company Zurich is even stricter than Novartis and Swiss Re.

Since September 13th, the company has required all employees, visitors and suppliers to present a certificate when entering the corporate headquarters in Zurich and, from October 4th, also at its site in Zurich-Oerlikon. The check is carried out daily at the entrance using a smartphone scanner.

“Anyone who does not have a certificate is not allowed in and asked to work from home”, the company said.

SWISS airline

The national carrier announced that  from November 15th, all cabin crew must be vaccinated.

“It is important that we take measures now that allow us to preserve our global network while fulfilling our duty to protect our employees”, said the company’s CEO Dieter Vranckx.

READ MORE: Swiss airlines makes Covid vaccination compulsory for pilots and cabin crew

Geneva’s University Hospitals (HUG)

Switzerland’s largest university medical centre  announced that all healthcare personnel hired from September 1st will have to be vaccinated.

“We have an obligation to protect patients, staff and visitors. The hospital is safe, but we can further increase that security”, HUG director Bertrand Levrat said about the new requirement.

Other large Swiss companies are seriously considering the certificate requirement as well.

Among them are AMAG, ABB, EY, NZZ Group and TX Group, according to SonntagsZeitung.

READ MORE: Can your boss require you to have a Covid certificate in Switzerland?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Swiss government will not make second Covid boosters available until autumn, saying those who are currently fully vaccinated face a low risk of contracting the virus.

Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) announced on Tuesday that second Covid booster shots for general population will be available in the fall, “when the risk for individuals and the burden on the healthcare system will be greatest”.

While Switzerland had a widespread booster shot campaign against Covid, the government has been reluctant to approve second boosters other than for those in vulnerable categories. 

Right now, those with a weakened immune system and people over the age of 80 are the only ones eligible. 

People not in those risk groups who want a second booster will need to pay out of pocket for the jab. 

This may be people who feel they are in a risk group but are not included in the government’s list, or those who need a booster for travelling abroad. 

People who are travelling to countries where proof of up-to-date immunisation is required but whose Covid certificates are no longer valid, can receive the fourth dose but upon request have to pay for the shot.

Previously, all Covid boosters have been free for Swiss citizens and residents, with the government electing to cover the costs. 

How much will a Covid booster for travel cost? 

While the federal government previously covered the costs of the vaccines, it is now up to individual vaccination centres to set a price for a second booster. 

A spokesperson from the FOPH told The Local on Wednesday that the cost tends to be around CHF60 across much of the country. 

Please keep in mind that this cost only relates to second booster shots for those not in vulnerable categories. For those wanting their first booster – or indeed their first or second shot of the vaccine – the government will continue to cover the costs. 

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