Coronavirus: Free tests for those waiting for second vaccine dose
Bern, 24.09.2021 - People who have already received one dose of vaccine are to continue to be able to get tested free of charge until the end of November in order to obtain a COVID certificate. The Federal Council adopted a proposal to that effect at its meeting on 24 September and launched a consultation. In order to allow sufficient time for the consultation the Federal Council will continue to cover test costs for all for a further ten days until 10 October. The Federal Council also intends to make it easier for tourists to obtain a COVID certificate by setting up a national registration office.
Following extensive discussions, the Federal Council stands by its assessment that it is not up to the public as a whole to finance the cost of tests for people who decide not to get vaccinated. Last week, 600,000 tests were carried out for COVID certificates. In the colder months, this number is likely to rise to one million tests a week. This corresponds to costs of around CHF 47 million a week, which would have to be borne by the federal government if the financing of test costs were to be extended indefinitely.
Number of vaccinations has increased significantly
The Federal Council is aware, however, that for many people difficult considerations are involved in deciding whether or not to get vaccinated. The extended certificate requirement has been in effect since 13 September in response to the strained situation in hospitals. This requirement, as well as the current epidemiological situation and the increase in hospital admissions, may have prompted many people to get vaccinated after the summer holidays. At the beginning of August, around 8,000 first vaccinations were carried out per day throughout Switzerland; this rose to around 20,000 in mid-September and more recently to around 30,000 per day.
Free testing to be extended
In view of the increased number of vaccinations, the Federal Council is proposing that the federal government should, until the end of November, continue to cover the cost of tests (rapid antigen tests and pooled PCR tests) for those who have received a first dose of vaccine, but do not yet have a certificate. This ensures that people who need a little more time to decide whether or not to get vaccinated will not incur any costs due to the extension of the certificate requirement. It is submitting this proposal to the cantons, the social partners and other parties for consultation until 28 September. The Federal Council will then take a decision on the matter at its next meeting on 1 October.
In order to allow time for the consultation and to encourage the further take-up of vaccinations, the Federal Council will push back the date from which people will have to pay for rapid antigen tests themselves by ten days, so from 10 October instead of 1 October. Until then, the cost of all rapid antigen tests will be covered, including tests to obtain COVID certificates.
Additional costs of around CHF 280 million
The increased demand for tests to obtain COVID certificates since 13 September and the 10-day extension of testing costs being covered by the federal government are estimated to result in additional costs of around CHF 160 million. Extending the period in which test costs for people with a single vaccine dose are covered until the end of November is likely to cost a further CHF 120 million.
Vaccination take-up to be further encouraged
Switzerland is facing a difficult winter due to the low vaccination coverage among the population. Although the number of infections and hospital admissions has fallen in recent weeks, overall numbers are still high. When social life moves back indoors in the coming months, circulation of the virus is likely to increase again. This will once again place additional strain on hospitals. Only a significant increase in the vaccination rate will make it possible to further curb the circulation of the virus. Vaccination is free of charge for everyone. It is safe and provides very good protection against infection. Anyone who becomes infected despite being vaccinated is far less likely to fall seriously ill.
National coordination of saliva PCR pool tests
At its meeting, the Federal Council also decided that in addition to the existing cantonal test programmes, PCR pool tests should be coordinated nationally from mid-October. This will enable broad hotspot-testing and repetitive pool testing in all cantons. Repetitive tests at schools, healthcare facilities and companies will be handled by external service providers. A further element of the consultation concerns individual participation in saliva PCR pool tests for test certificates for a fee. Such a procedure will allow infected individuals to be identified more reliably compared to rapid antigen tests.
National registration point for COVID certificates
Anyone vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and who requires a certificate in Switzerland can apply for a Swiss COVID certificate. The Federal Council took a decision to that effect on 17 September. This means that tourists can also participate in social activities here.
The cantons are responsible for checking the necessary documents and issuing the COVID certificates. In order to make it easier for people entering the country to apply for the certificate and to relieve pressure on the cantons, the federal government plans to set up a central electronic registration office for COVID certificates. This will enable people who have been vaccinated or have recovered abroad to upload the information and documents required for the certificate to be issued.
The registration office is expected to be available from 11 October. The transitional period for the use of human-readable vaccination certificates, currently valid until 10 October, is to be extended by a further two weeks until 24 October. This will give all people entering Switzerland enough time to obtain a certificate. The Federal Council is also sending this proposal for consultation until 28 September.
People vaccinated abroad with a vaccine on the WHO list but not approved by the EMA will only be able to obtain a COVID certificate if they are resident in Switzerland. Those individuals will have to go to the contact point in their canton of residence in person.
Updated list of high-risk countries
The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) has updated its list of high-risk countries in alignment with the other Schengen states. Due to recent epidemiological developments, entry restrictions for Uruguay will be lifted while new entry restrictions will be introduced for Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brunei, Japan and Serbia. The changes will come into effect at midnight on 27 September.
Foreign nationals travelling from a high-risk country without proof of a recognised vaccination are prohibited from entering Switzerland for a short stay. This applies in particular to tourists. Persons with a Swiss passport or a valid residence permit may enter Switzerland from any country at any time. All persons entering Switzerland must present an entry form. In addition, all persons who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered must present a negative test result. Further information on entry requirements can be found on the websites of the SEM and the FOPH. The Travelcheck online tool can be used to check the conditions for travellers wishing to enter Switzerland from specific countries.
Address for enquiries
Federal Office of Public Health
Coronavirus Infoline +41 58 463 00 00
COVID-19 Vaccination Infoline +41 58 377 88 92
State Secretariat for Migration SEM, firstname.lastname@example.org, 058 465 78 44
The Federal Council
Federal Department of Home Affairs
Federal Office of Public Health
State Secretariat for Migration
Federal Department of Justice and Police