Free COVID testing for unvaccinated people ends in Switzerland
From October 11, all people who are asymptomatic and not vaccinated against COVID-19 will have to pay for tests themselves. Here's what expats need to know about the rule change.
Swiss federal government restricts free COVID testing
The Swiss government has confirmed that free COVID tests for unvaccinated asymptomatic will end from Monday, October 11. This is significant, as entry to indoor restaurants, bars and gyms is tied to a negative test or vaccination through the COVID certificate, meaning that unvaccinated people will face costs of up to 150 Swiss francs every time they want to go out.
Health Minister Alain Berset said in a press conference that the vaccination rate must be “as high as possible,” and estimated around 2 million people eligible for the vaccine have not come forward for the jab. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has reported a decline in admissions to hospital, which they attribute to the increasing vaccination rate and the certificate requirement. Berset said that there still had to be more progress before the Christmas holidays, affirming that “we have to get out of this crisis."
What are the new rules for free COVID-19 tests in Switzerland?
As of October 11, people who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 must pay for any COVID testing done in Switzerland. People who have received one dose of the vaccine may access free testing until the end of November, which the FOPH estimates as the maximum amount of time needed to get the second jab.
In addition to these new rules, from October 11, residents or visitors from outside of the European Union can have their vaccination certified for use in Switzerland by the cantonal authorities, as long as the vaccine is approved by the European Medicines Agency.
Exceptions in the new COVID-19 testing rules
Alongside the new rules, there are also several exceptions for people that require regular testing. People under the age of 16 will still have access to free tests to facilitate international travel. Students in Swiss universities can also receive a certificate allowing them to get tested for free. This also applies to people who have been advised against vaccination for medical reasons.
People identified as close contacts of confirmed cases and people with symptoms may also receive free tests, regardless of vaccination status. In addition, if you have an appointment or want to visit a Swiss hospital, you can get tested for free, but you won't be able to use the negative test to get a COVID certificate for use in restaurants.
Concluding the press conference, Berset called on the public to get vaccinated, saying the “worst thing to do is to prolong this crisis.” He said that things had calmed down in comparison to the same time last year, but said the situation remained tense.