Switzerland eases PCR test rule for travellers recovered from Covid

The Swiss government has responded to criticism surrounding its PCR test requirement, changing the rules slightly for those arriving in the country who have already had the virus. 

A person in a mask walks past a sign at Basel Airport
Switzerland has updated its entry rules. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Since December 4th, people arriving from almost all countries must provide a negative PCR test on entry, followed by another PCR or antigen test between four and seven days later. 

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

The criticism centred around the fact that people who have recently had Covid often test positive in PCR tests despite not being infectious with the virus. 

According to Swiss news outlet NZZ, who broke the story with confirmation from the Federal Office of Public Health, the PCR test requirement had made it “practically impossible” for some people to return home, as they continually tested positive despite no longer being contagious. 

The FOPH said the change had been made “so that the people concerned can travel back to Switzerland”. 

What is the new exception for recovered people? 

Under the new exception for recovered people, those who have had the virus within the past 30 days – and can prove it with a doctors certificate – do not need to provide evidence of a negative PCR test. 

They must however have no symptoms of the virus and must also have a negative rapid antigen test which is less than 24 hours old. 

As reported by NZZ, the exemption was passed on Friday, November 10th, but it does not yet appear on the FOPH website. 

Swiss virologist Isabella Eckerle told NZZ that PCR tests can show positive results several days after someone is no longer infectious. 

“There are now many studies that show that you are no longer infectious after around 8 to 10 days, even though the PCR test can be positive for longer.”

People who arrive without a PCR test who do not fit within the exception must pay a CHF200 fine and must take a PCR test in Switzerland, which cost approximately CHF 110 (€100), or CHF 195 (€175) for rapid PCR tests.

Switzerland: What happens if I arrive without a PCR test?

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Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

Under a new plan put forth by the Swiss government, anyone who needs a booster shot for travel abroad should pay for it out of pocket.

Switzerland proposes travellers pay for Covid boosters

While Covid shots were previously free for everyone in Switzerland, with the Swiss government picking up the tab, the country has been reluctant to issue a recommendation for a second booster.

As The Local reported on Monday, this means that many people’s most recent shot will soon be more than nine months ago, which is the date at which many Covid passes expire. 

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

Although evidence of vaccination is not required domestically in Switzerland any more, it may pose issues in 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.

Swiss health authorities: Travellers should pay for Covid boosters themselves

According to newest recommendations of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), people travelling abroad who need second booster doses must pay for the shots themselves.

As the fourth vaccine dose is currently recommended only for people with a severely weakened immune system, everyone outside of this group will be charged as yet undefined fee.

The proposal was sent to the cantons for consultation until June 1st.

If agreed on, the Federal Council will adjust the Epidemics Ordinance accordingly on June 10th.