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COVID-19 CERTIFICATE

Will Switzerland introduce antibody testing for Covid certificate?

Swiss authorities are debating extending the certificate to those who recovered from coronavirus but were not tested at the time. This is how it could work.

Certificates based on serology tests would be valid for 90 days
If the government’s proposal goes through, people with positive antibody tests could get Covid certificates. Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP.

Right now, people who contracted the disease and recovered from it within the past six months can receive a Covid certificate — but only if their positive status was confirmed by a PCR test.

Those who used an antigen test are excluded.

But that could change soon.

“Under the latest proposal, certificates would also be issued to anyone who can present a current positive antibody or serology test”, the Federal Council announced on Wednesday.

This means is that people whose blood test confirms the presence of Covid antibodies — proving that they had been contaminated in the past — would qualify for the certificate, even in the absence of a PCR test.

This is a major turnaround, because as recently as July, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) was firmly opposed to suggestions that antibody counts should be used for certificates, arguing that these tests “give only limited indications on the degree and duration of protection against possible (re) infection”.

Specific criteria

Some conditions would have to be met to get the certificate based on serological results.

For instance, in order to be valid for a Covid certificate, the tests used to detect antibodies in blood will have to be approved by the drug regulatory agency, Swissmedic.

The cost of serology test — 70 francs — would have to be paid by the individual. Also, unlike ‘regular’ Covid certificates, the one based on antibodies would only be valid for three months and only in Switzerland, the government said.

In other words, it couldn’t be used for international travel.

This alternative is now under discussion and the Federal Council will announce its decision on November 3rd.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What you need to know about Covid antibody testing in Switzerland

Validity for some certificates may be extended

The Federal Council also announced that the period of validity for all recovery certificates issued to date could be doubled from six months to one year — the same duration as for vaccinated people.

“Based on the evidence currently available, this provides sufficient protection against serious illness and hospitalisation”, authorities said.

But the extended validity would only apply in Switzerland; in the EU, recovery certificates are valid for only six months.

The final decision would be announced in November as well.

READ MORE: Why is Switzerland’s Covid certificate for recovery valid only six months?

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COVID-19 CERTIFICATE

What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

In the coming months, millions of Covid certificates are set to expire in Switzerland. What will the government do about it?

What will Switzerland do about the ‘millions’ of expiring Covid certificates?

As certificates are valid for nine months after the second vaccine dose or a booster, “millions of Swiss Covid certificates will expire by autumn at the latest”, according to Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes.

As many Swiss received their most recent shot in late 2021, the nine-month period will soon be coming to an end. 

Although this is not a problem domestically as proof of vaccination is no longer required in Switzerland, it may pose issues for travel. 

Since many countries still require a vaccination certificate for entry, and as the second round of boosters is not yet available in Switzerland,  this means that a large number of people may not be able to travel abroad.

And while other countries have already started to administer second booster shots, Swiss health authorities are dragging their feet, not having even issued a recommendation for the fourth dose yet.

This worries some MPs, who are calling on the government to make second boosters available soonest possible.

“The past has shown that cantons are not always sufficiently prepared. Something like this mustn’t happen again”, said MP Fabian Molina, adding that anyone travelling abroad should be able to be re-vaccinated if they wish. 

Another deputy, Yvonne Feri, noted that the federal government and the cantons have to prepare to vaccinate again within a short period of time.

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

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