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Reader question: Are self-tests now free in Switzerland again?

Switzerland has again agreed to cover the costs of some Covid tests, but does this apply to pharmacy-bought take-at-home tests?

A person with a self-test for Covid-19
Covid-19 self-tests have not been made free by the government under the new regulations. Photo: Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP

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

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. 

Are self-tests now free again?

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

The regulation sought to make testing free which would be relevant for the Covid certificate, i.e. tests for people with the 2G-Plus rule. 

As self-tests are not sufficient here, they are not covered. 

While these will still be available from pharmacies – and are increasingly popular ahead of Christmas gatherings – anyone wanting to use one will need to cover the costs themselves. 

Why is some 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. 

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry – although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons – there was no announcement on lifting this restriction. 

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.

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