Switzerland’s National Council, the country’s house of representatives, on Thursday approved a proposal to again make Covid testing free.
The proposal, initially put forward by the Greens, won a clear majority in the National Council.
The proposal will now go to the Council of States, Switzerland’s 46-member senate, for approval.
Switzerland’s Social Democrats said the tests “tests could be free again as early as next week.”
The government phased out free testing on October 11th, in a bid to encourage people to get vaccinated.
However, with Covid case rates again skyrocketing in Switzerland – the country hit its highest ever one-day case total on Wednesday – and intensive care beds dwindling, testing may once again be made free for everyone.
In addition to free testing, the proposal also requires that those who are tested in schools, at work or in nursing homes to get an extension to their Covid certificates when they test negative.
Will the Council of States approve the measure?
The only opposition in the National Council to the measure came from the FDP and the GLP, who said people should cover the costs of tests themselves.
The FDP complained about the high costs of the tests, while the GLP said people who had decided not to be vaccinated shouldn’t then have access to free testing.
“Anyone who does not want to be vaccinated for subjective reasons should also pay for tests.”
The SVP said that new measures which had been forecast – including requiring vaccinated people to also show a negative test to access certain events – meant that the state should again cover the costs of testing.
“Because of the planned expansion of compulsory testing to vaccinated people, it makes sense to introduce free tests,” said SVP state councillor Hannes Germann.
Under Switzerland’s Covid certificate rules, only people who have been vaccinated, recovered from the virus or who have tested negative are allowed to visit bars, restaurants and other events.
With testing costing up to CHF40 and CHF50 per test, making people pay their own was a way to encourage vaccination.
The costs of the tests were so high that some Swiss residents were crossing the border in order to get a cheaper test.
However, testing is also an important way of cutting infection chains before they spiral out of control, as well as determining the how prevalent the virus is in the community.
While the number of tests carried out each day differs, Switzerland’s decision to phase out free testing has meant a lot fewer tests are currently being done.
For instance, on November 11th Austria tested more than 725,000 people, whereas Switzerland tested just 40,129, making it harder for authorities to see the true nature of the virus in the community.