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Swiss residents crossing border to France for ‘cheaper Covid tests’

As coronavirus screening is no longer free in Switzerland, some residents of border areas get tested in France.

Some Genevans drive a short distance to France to get tested for coronavirus
Since October 11th, people from Geneva drive to France (here at the Thonex border crossing) to save money on Covid testing. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /AFP

Residents of Switzerland’s border regions often do their shopping in neighbouring countries to save money, as the cost of food and other products is cheaper abroad.

Now this phenomenon, known as “shopping tourism”, has been taken a step further, with a number of people from Geneva and surrounding areas cross the border to get their Covid tests in France.

Since October 11th, when the Swiss government stopped covering the cost of Covid tests for most people, some residents of Switzerland “have been crossing the border to get tested cheaply in France”, public broadcaster RTS reported.

Even though prices for screening in Switzerland vary, with some testing centres and pharmacies charging less than others, it is still cheaper in France, according to RTS.

READ MORE: How much do Covid tests now cost in Switzerland?

For instance, in Switzerland, most places charge 134 francs for PCR and 47 for a rapid antigen test.

In French pharmacies, people who are not vaccinated or who do not have a doctor’s prescription have been paying about 47 euros for a PCR and 27 an antigen test.

As of Friday, October 15th, this has been capped at €44 for PCR and €22 for antigen across the country. 

And French test results are valid in Switzerland for the Covid certificate.

French tests are also valid for international travel.

Switzerland decided to start charging for tests to save money, as the cost of screening is estimated at four million francs per day.

If the tests were to remain free until January 24th, 2022 – the date when the Covid certificate requirement expires – they would cost the federal government around 770 million francs.

However, tests remain free for people who have Covid symptoms, children up to 16 years of age, visitors to health facilities, those who can’t be vaccinated for health reasons (and can prove it with a medical certificate) and, until the end of November, those who have had the first dose of the vaccine and are waiting for the second shot.

READ MORE:Switzerland ends free Covid testing: Everything you need to know

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For members


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.