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Switzerland: Do antigen tests detect Omicron?

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Switzerland: Do antigen tests detect Omicron?
Antigen test for Covid-19. Photo: Ben STANSALL / AFP

Some early indications have suggested that antigen tests sometimes fail to detect Omicron infections. What is the latest situation in Switzerland?


Health authorities are concerned that antigen tests are not sensitive enough to detect Omicron, leading to ‘false negative’ results.

While is not uncommon for the more sensitive and accurate PCR screening to contradict the results of rapid tests, this appears to be happening more regularly in the case of the Omicron variant. 

Patrick Mathys, head of the crisis management section at the Federal Office of Public Health confirmed that rapid antigenic tests “seem to have sensitivity problems” in recognising Omicron.

“This needs to be looked at closely internationally. We can then decide how to use these tests in the future”, he said.

One option could be to make PCR testing more accessible, or to rejig the existing antigen tests so that they are more effective in detecting the Omicron variant. 

Experts are as yet unclear as to why the tests are less effective with Omicron and are currently conducting research into why this is the case. 


What does this mean for me?

As yet, this has not led to a change in Swiss government policy with regard to testing. 

Tests are still required for entry into Switzerland and tests are also required to access nightclubs and similar venues where the 2G-Plus rule is in place. 

EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s 2G-Plus rule?

For those who want to be as sure as possible, a PCR test is recommended - although these are sometimes costly. 

While they may not be as foolproof as PCR tests, antigen tests are still an important weapon in the fight against Covid and will still detect infection in many cases. 

"It is useful to use it rather than not to use it, because when the test is positive, one can refrain from having the contacts which one would have had without it. It contributes to the risk reduction", Samia Hurst, vice-president of the Swiss Covid Taskforce, told RTS

What are The Local's reader questions?

As part of our service to our readers and members, we often answer questions on life in Switzerland via email. 

When these have value to the greater Local Switzerland community, we put them together as an article. 

For obvious reasons, recent questions have tended to focus on the Covid pandemic and the Swiss government's rules, although reader questions can be about anything that's on your mind. 

If you'd like to have a question answered - or just want to get in touch - drop us a line at [email protected]

Here are some examples of reader questions we have published. 

Reader question: Which do staff see when scanning my Swiss Covid certificate?

Reader question: How can I legally reduce my rent in Switzerland?

Reader question: Does Switzerland celebrate Halloween?

Reader question: What does being ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland mean?


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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