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COVID-19

What you need to know about free Covid testing in Switzerland

Some Covid tests are free in Switzerland, with the government in late December agreeing to cover the costs for the first time since early October.

A Covid-19 testing centre
Testing for Covid-19 will again be free in Switzerland. Photo: SPENCER PLATT / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

With the Covid situation worsening in Switzerland, the Swiss government has tightened Covid measures across the country. 

As part of the raft of new measures and rules announced on December 17th, the Swiss government again pledged to cover the costs for Covid tests, making testing now free in most instances. 

Testing was free throughout much of the summer, however the government stopped covering the costs of the tests from early October in order to encourage people to get vaccinated. 

What tests are now covered? 

As of Saturday, December 18th, individual antigen and pooled PCR tests are free in Switzerland. 

The costs of PCR tests and antibody tests will not be covered by the government.

Depending on the provider, PCR tests cost approximately CHF 110 (€100), or CHF 195 (€175) for rapid PCR tests.

READ MORE: How to get Switzerland’s Covid certificate with an antibody test

Self-tests – otherwise known as at-home tests which were available in pharmacies – are also not covered by the regulation and are therefore not free.  

PCR tests will however be free if a close contact has tested positive, if you are part of a positive pooled PCR test or if you have symptoms of the virus. 

*A positive test pool is where a group of people have their samples pooled and are tested with one PCR test. This is most common in the case of children and class groups. 

What do I need a test for? 

With negative tests now no longer valid for the Covid certificate, one major question is why the tests are now again being made free. 

While tests will no longer allow you to obtain a Covid certificate to visit a bar, restaurant or event, they are valid in terms of travel and for the new 2G-Plus rule. 

Unvaccinated (and non-recovered) people entering Switzerland must show a test on arrival and again between four and seven days after arriving. This can be antigen or PCR. 

The new 2G-Plus rule requires people who are already vaccinated or recovered from the virus to also get a test in certain situations. 

This includes for example bars, clubs and discos, as well as other events. 

People who have had a booster shot in the past four months do not need to get a test, i.e. they will be deemed already 2G-Plus compliant. 

Restaurants can also elect to impose the 2G-Plus rule if they want to get rid of the requirement to have allocated seating and to have masks. 

Why is testing free again? 

Switzerland’s Covid situation has worsened in recent weeks, with higher case rates than ever and fuller ICUs than ever. 

Testing allows infected people to be identified and isolate, thereby slowing the spread of the virus. 

While those who have been vaccinated will have a less severe course of the symptoms, they can still catch and spread the virus in some cases. 

One of the major reasons the government decided to stop covering the costs of tests back in October was in order to encourage vaccination. 

As a result of the October change, people who were unvaccinated but were getting tested regularly in order to have a Covid certificate would need to pay the costs of the tests themselves. 

Under the rules in effect as at December 18th, people can no longer get a negative test for the Covid certificate, so the incentive to vaccinate is still there. 

Another major reason for the change was the cost of testing, which was estimated at four million francs per day. 

Switzerland ends free Covid testing: Everything you need to know

As yet, it is unclear as to what the daily costs of covering the tests will now be, given that it is expected fewer people will get tested as the tests no longer confer a Covid certificate. 

Where can I get tested? 

Fortunately, testing is common place in cities, towns and villages throughout Switzerland, while most airports and major transport hubs also have testing facilities.

Pharmacies, general practitioners and hospitals have testing facilities, while private facilities also exist across the country.

Member comments

  1. Thanks for the article – it would be very helpful to know if home self-tests for antigen are free again from Pharmacies, as they were in the summer/

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TRAVEL NEWS

The Covid rules you should know if you’re travelling from Switzerland this summer

When it comes to Covid regulations in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe, the situation is certainly much more relaxed than it was last summer. However, certain countries still maintain rules in regards to vaccinations and masks.

The Covid rules you should know if you're travelling from Switzerland this summer

Months ago, health experts predicted that coronavirus will not be circulating extensively during the summer months and won’t strike us again before the weather turns cold in the fall / winter.

But as it turns out, these forecasts were wrong, as Omicron and its highly contagious sub-variants keep infecting increasing numbers of people across Europe.

In Switzerland, the number of reported contaminations has risen from under 10,000 a week in May to 33,108 registered in a span of seven days on June 28, with officials expecting an explosion in cases as summer progresses.

READ MORE: ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

What does this mean for international travel?

As of right now (and the situation could change in coming weeks), Switzerland doesn’t require either testing or proof of vaccination upon entry. This is also the situation in many other countries in Europe as well as farther afield.

However, some popular European tourist destinations still (or again) have Covid-related entry regulations in place, as well as rules inside the country.

This is an overview of the places where people who live in Switzerland like to spend their summer holidays:

France

Entry requirements:

For vaccinated persons, full vaccination for at least one week must be proven. The last dose must be less than nine months old. Cured people can travel a week after receiving a single dose.

For recovered people: the positive result of a PCR test more than 11 days old and less than six months.

For non-vaccinated persons: a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 48 hours before departure. Children under 12 are exempt.

On-site measures:

Wearing a mask on public transport, which has not been required since May 16th, is once again strongly recommended — though not compulsory.

Italy

While proof of vaccination or negative test is not required to enter Italy, there are some mask requirements in place in the country.

From mid-June, Italian government extended the obligation to wear FFP2 masks on public transport until September 30th, except on planes. The surgical mask is also still compulsory from the age of six in health establishments.

Portugal

Proof of full vaccination for at least 14 days is required to enter, with the last dose no older than 270 days ago. Swiss Covid certificates should suffice.

For recovered people, proof of recovery dating from 11 to 180 days before arrival in Portugal is required.

The unvaccinated should have a negative PCR test dated less than 72 hours or an antigen test carried out less than 24 hours before departure.

Children under 12 are exempt from these requirements.

Also, all travellers must fill out a passenger locator card before departure, as well as a form required by the Portuguese health authorities before their departure or during the flight.

On-site measures:

Portugal decided on April 21st to end the obligation to wear a mask indoors. However, masks are still required on public transport, hospitals or retirement homes.

These are the regulation for mainland Portugal; those visiting Madeira, can see the rules in this link.

Spain

Since June 2nd, travellers from a Schengen area (which includes Switzerland) are no longer subject to any health checks upon arrival.

On-site measures:

Spain lifted the requirement to wear a mask indoors on April 20th. The mask is, however, still required from the age of six on public transport, in hospitals and retirement homes. Differences may exist between regions, so consult the websites of individual areas.

Austria

Since May 16th, travel restrictions have been lifted. Nevertheless, an FFP2 mask remains compulsory from the age of six for flights to and from the Vienna region.

On-site measures

FFP2 masks are mandatory from the age of 14 on public transport and in pharmacies in Vienna.

Germany

Since June 1st and until at least August 31st, entry restrictions to Germany have all been suspended.

On-site measures:

No vaccination or testing rules on entry, but restrictions remain in some federal states, so check local websites for more information.

Wearing a mask remains compulsory from the age of six on public transport and in medical establishments. To go to the hospital, an antigen test of less than 24 hours or PCR of less than 48 hours is required.

READ MORE: EU extends Covid travel certificates until 2023

United Kingdom

There are no more Covid restrictions across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and arrivals no longer need to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before arriving in the UK.

United States

According to the US Embassy in Switzerland, “air travelers to the United States are no longer required to show a negative COVID-19 test result, or documentation of recovery from COVID-19, prior to boarding a flight to the United States”.

However, there are different requirements for different categories of travelers: “all non-U.S.-citizen, nonimmigrant (not a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, lawful permanent resident, or traveling to the United States on an immigrant visa) airline passengers traveling to the United States, must demonstrate proof of vaccination prior to boarding a U.S. bound aircraft”.

If you want to find out what the latest requirements are at your destination, you can do so by checking out the websites of their embassies in Switzerland, or official tourist bodies for each country / region.

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