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COVID-19

Which Covid tests will become free in Switzerland?

The Swiss government looks set to make Covid testing free again, although exactly which tests are covered remains unclear.

Most Covid tests will not be free in Switzerland. Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP
Most Covid tests will not be free in Switzerland. Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images / AFP

On December 2nd, Switzerland’s National Council, the lower house of parliament, voted to make coronavirus tests free for everyone in Switzerland.

Now, the Council of States, the country’s upper house, voted to allow the government to provide for “exceptions to the assumption of costs” of some tests, including PCR and serological screening not ordered by the canton.

Currently, cantonal health authorities can order individuals to be tested if there is suspicion of infection or exposure to contaminated person(s), which in effect means that tests are free only for people with symptoms of the virus. 

In effect, this new proposal means there is greater leeway to the Federal Council to set exceptions as to which tests will have their costs covered. 

Which tests look set to be covered? 

This means that only antigen tests, valid for 24 hours since December 6th, as well as pooled PCR tests — individual saliva samples mixed together with others — would be free of charge.

Tests for people with Covid symptoms will also remain free.

On the other hand, you will have to pay for PCR tests needed for international travel — both going abroad and coming back to Switzerland.

READ MORE: Travel: What are Switzerland’s Covid test requirements?

It is now up to the Federal Council to decide which, if any, tests will be free and which ones will have to be paid for by the individuals.

Right now, it looks unlikely that all the tests will be cost-free.

Health Minister Alain Berset is opposed to free tests for the entire population, explaining that “this decision would limit the Federal Council and the cantons in the development of the testing strategy”.

Above all,  “the costs of individual PCR tests for asymptomatic people have never been covered by the government anyway and doing so now would add considerable costs as well as lead to an overload of the capacities of the laboratories”, he added.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s new testing rules: How much travelling abroad now costs

A decision will be made in the coming days on which tests will become free in Switzerland. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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