Coronavirus: Isolation and quarantine

People who have tested positive for the coronavirus must go into isolation. People who have had close contact with a person who has tested positive must go into quarantine.

Note on the current situation

Swissmedic has approved two COVID-19 vaccines for Switzerland. Note that you must comply with the quarantine requirement even if you’ve been vaccinated for the new coronavirus. The vaccination provides protection from the disease. But it is still not clear whether it prevents you from infecting other people. However, the intention is to adjust the procedure in the future once more data are available on this.

Contact tracing is the responsibility of the cantons. They decide how best to deploy their resources if there are high numbers of cases. For this reason, in the current situation the cantonal office responsible may not be able to contact you promptly to tell you to go into isolation or quarantine. It is therefore important for you to go into isolation or quarantine of your own accord if the circumstances require.

Isolation and quarantine

Isolation and quarantine are measures designed to break the chains of infection and thus contain the spread of the new coronavirus. A person with a confirmed or suspected infection must stay at home and avoid all contact with other people. This will prevent the gratest possible number of new infections. Accordingly, the following rules apply:

People who have tested positive for infection with the new coronavirus must go into isolation.

People with an increased likelihood of infection with the new coronavirus must go into quarantine for ten days. Increased likelihood exists for persons for whom one of the following applies:

  • They have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for the new coronavirus. This is referred to as a quarantine after close contact (contact quarantine for short).
  • They have stayed in a high-risk country or region. This is referred to as a mandatory quarantine for persons arriving in Switzerland (travel quarantine for short).

Read the Instructions on isolation (PDF, 286 kB, 29.12.2020) and instructions on quarantine (PDF, 349 kB, 29.12.2020) for more information.

What to do in the event of symptoms of the disease

It is important for as many cases of infection with the coronavirus to be identified as possible. For this reason we recommend a test even if you have only mild symptoms.The steps below apply to all persons 12 or over. Information on what to do in the case of children under 12 years of age can be found in the section Children with symptoms.

1. Reduce contact: Stay at home and avoid all contact with other people.

2. Get a test recommendation: Do the coronavirus check. At the end of the check you’ll receive our recommendation. If you are to have a test you will receive information on the next steps. You can also call your doctor to discuss the procedure.

3. Tests: Get tested immediately if this is recommended by the coronavirus check or your doctor. Provided the FOPH’s criteria for testing (in German (PDF, 151 kB, 21.12.2020), French (PDF, 165 kB, 18.12.2020) or Italian (PDF, 161 kB, 21.12.2020)) are met, the costs of the test will be paid by the federal government. You'll find more information on the Tests page.

4. Until the test results are available: Stay at home, follow the instructions on isolation (PDF, 286 kB, 29.12.2020) and avoid all contact with other people until the result of the test is available. Depending on the result, follow the instructions for a positive test result or a negative test result.

What to do in the event of a positive test result: Isolation

Follow the instructions on isolation (PDF, 286 kB, 29.12.2020) and avoid all contact with other people. If you live with other people in the same household, set yourself up in one room on your own. Isolation normally lasts 10 days.

In the ideal case, the cantonal office will inform you when you can end your isolation. If you do not receive instructions, your isolation must last at least 10 days. Depending on your state of health, however, it may last longer. You can come out of isolation if at least 10 days have passed and you have had no more symptoms for the last 48 hours. An exception applies if the only symptoms you have are continued loss of sense of smell or taste or a slight cough. These symptoms can take longer to fully disappear. This means you can come out of isolation if you have these symptoms alone.
 

Further information about isolation:

  • Monitoring your state of health: Contact your doctor if your symptoms of illness worsen or are concerning you. The following symptoms are warning signs: fever or feeling of weakness lasting several days, shortness of breath, severe pressure or pain in the chest, a renewed feeling of confusion, bluish lips or a bluish face.
  • Contact tracing: The cantonal office responsible will contact you. Together you will work out what people you have contact with. These people may have to go into quarantine. Please note: in the current situation, the cantonal office might not be able to contact you promptly. In this case, you yourself should inform your close contacts that you have been infected. You and your contacts will find out how to proceed in such a case in the section on What to do after contact with a person who has tested positive.
  • Covidcode: If you use the SwissCovid App, you can voluntarily enter a Covidcode. This personal code will activate the alert in the app. In this way, you can anonymously inform other users of the contact. You obtain your Covidcode from the cantonal contact tracing office or the doctor treating you. Please note: in the current situation, the cantonal office might not always be able to send you a Covidcode straight away. Thank you for your patience in this case.
  • Continued payment of salary and daily sickness benefits: You will find information in the section on Financial entitlements.

What to do in the event of a negative test result

  • If you were not in quarantine when you had the test: Stay at home until you have no longer had symptoms for 24 hours. This is also the recommendation for respiratory diseases such as the flu.
  • If you were in quarantine when you had the test: The result of the test does not affect the length of your quarantine. Only come out of quarantine after 10 days.

If you experience symptoms again or are worried, contact your doctor.

What to do after contact with a person who has tested positive

Have you had contact with a person who has tested positive for the coronavirus? You may be contagious (able to infect other people) for the next few days without realising. What you should do now depends on whether the person who has tested positive was contagious during the contact and whether the contact was close. To find this out, answer the following questions:

1. Was the person contagious at the time?

Decisive period of time: A person is contagious 2 days before the start of symptoms until 10 days after the start of symptoms. People with a severe form of the illness may be contagious for longer.

  • If you had contact with this person before this period, infection is unlikely and you do not have to go into quarantine.
  • If you had contact with the person who has tested positive while they were contagious, answer the following question:

2. Was the contact “close”?

“Close contact” is defined as personal contact in the course of which you could have become infected. The longer you had contact with the person who tested positive, the greater the likelihood of infection. If protection was in place, for example a partition, or if you were both wearing a mask and keeping your distance, it does not count as close contact.

Be guided by the following basic rule: The contact was close if you were an insufficient distance from another person for a longer period of time and there was no protection. “A longer period of time” means more than 15 minutes altogether on one day (cumulatively). “Insufficient distance” means less than 1.5 metres away.

Note: The virus naturally doesn’t have a stopwatch. So 15 minutes is merely an approximate point of reference. In confined spaces (such as a car) the contact can be “close” even if it was for a shorter time.


What do you have to do now?

If the person who tested positive was contagious during the contact and the contact was close, follow the instructions in the section on what to do after close contact (quarantine). If the person who tested positive was contagious during the contact but the contact was not close, follow the instructions in the section on what to do after non-close contact.  

What to do after close contact: Quarantine

Go into quarantine immediately and following the instructions on quarantine (PDF, 349 kB, 29.12.2020). Basically this means avoiding all contact, even with people who live in your household. If you still do not have symptoms 10 days after the close contact, you may come out of quarantine.

Further information about quarantine:  

  • Contact Tracing: Quarantine arrangements as part of contact tracing are the responsibility of the cantons. The cantonal offices decide how best to deploy their resources for contact tracing. Ideally the cantonal office responsible will inform you by phone or in writing that you have to go into quarantine. In the current situation, however, it may be that you are not contacted. In this case it is important for you to follow the quarantine rules of your own accord.

  • Onset of symptoms: If you start getting symptoms during quarantine, follow the instructions in the section on what to do in the event of symptoms.

  • Tests: If you wish you can have a free test during quarantine, even if you don’t have symptoms. You can do this once, from the fifth day after contact with the infected person onwards. However, a negative test does not mean you can come out of quarantine prematurely. Having a test during quarantine can enable a possible infection to be detected early on. In this case contact tracing can start immediately and any infection chains can be traced.


Note: Different rules may apply for persons working in the health sector or for public order and safety. Healthcare personnel will find more information on the Information for Healthcare Personnel site (in German, French or Italian).

What to do after non-close contact

In this situation, the likelihood that you have become infected is lower than after close contact. For this reason you do not have to go into quarantine. Nevertheless, it is important to exercise caution. If you have become infected, the first symptoms will in most cases appear within 10 days of contact with the infected person. During this time the following applies:

  • Strictly follow the rules on hygiene and social distancing.
  • Keep an eye on your state of health. If you start experiencing disease symptoms: Stay at home and follow the instructions on what to do in the event of symptoms of the disease.
  • Protect your family, friends and other people by avoiding unnecessary contact.
  • If your personal and work circumstances permit you can go into quarantine yourself and work from home.
  • If you cannot work from home, it’s particularly important for you to observe the distancing and hygiene rules by avoiding contact, keeping your distance and wearing a mask if you cannot stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people.

Alert from the SwissCovid App

Have you received an alert (warning) from the SwissCovid App that you have been in contact with an infected person? Please call the specified infoline voluntarily. The infoline will discuss with you the likelihood you have been infected and what to do next.  

Children with symptoms and possible infection

According to current knowledge, children can also be infected with the coronavirus. However, children under 12 years of age are less likely to be symptomatic than young people and adults and are also less likely to transmit the virus to other people. The steps outlined below therefore apply to children under 12 years of age. If your child is 12 or over the same principles apply as to adolescents and adults. You will find details of this procedure in the section on what to do in the event of symptoms of the disease.

Symptoms after close contact with a symptomatic person

If your child has symptoms of a possible infection with the coronavirus and has had close contact with a symptomatic person (child aged 12 or over or an adult), what you should do depends on the test result of the close contact:

  • If the contact’s test result is positive: Your child must stay at home and will be tested in consultation with the paediatrician who will provide you with information on how to proceed.
  • If the contact’s test result is negative: Your child may only return to his or her school or childcare facility following a period of 24 hours during which he or she no longer exhibits fever or if his or her cough has significantly improved.  

Symptoms without close contact with a symptomatic person

If your child has symptoms of a possible infection with the new coronavirus and has not had close contact with a symptomatic person (child aged 12 or over or an adult), what you should do depends on your child’s symptoms and health:

  • Your child has mild cold symptoms (sniffles and/or a sore throat and/or a slight cough) and is in good general health: Your child may continue to attend his or her school or childcare facility.
  • Your child has a fever and is in good general health: Your child must stay at home and may only return to his or her school or childcare facility following a period of 24 hours during which he or she no longer exhibits fever. Contact your paediatrician if your child's fever persists for three days or more.
    If your child has other symptoms (gastrointestinal complaints, headache, aching limbs, loss of sense of taste or smell), discuss what to do with the paediatrician.
  • Your child has a severe cough and is in good general health: Your child must stay at home and may only return to his or her school or childcare facility if the cough has improved significantly within three days. Contact your paediatrician if your child's severe cough persists for more than three days.
    If your child has other symptoms (gastrointestinal complaints, headache, aching limbs, loss of sense of taste or smell), discuss what to do with the paediatrician.
  • Your child has a fever or severe cough and/or is in poor general health: Contact the paediatrician directly to discuss what to do.

When three or more children exhibit symptoms in a school class/childcare group and the cantonal offices have been informed accordingly, they will determine the next steps for the children in consultation with the attending paediatricians.

Material to help you better understand what to do

  • Graphics: Via the Links tab you’ll find infographics showing the cases described above in simple form.
  • Online questionnaire from the Inselspital hospital: Go to coronabambini.ch and answer the questions on your child’s state of health. At the end you’ll be given recommendations on whether your child should stay at home and whether a test is necessary.

What to do after a test

If your child has been tested, what to do next depends on the result of the test.

If your child tests positive it must stay at home in isolation. Basically the rules on isolation also apply to children. In isolation your child may not have contact with people outside your household. If your child is in isolation, contact with other members of the household should be reduced as far as possible. The precise form isolation takes in practice depends on the age of your child and your living arrangements. You’ll find all the relevant information on isolation in the section on What to do in the event of a positive test result: Isolation.

If a child under 12 tests negative it may return to school immediately. If your child had a fever, however, they must be fever-free for a period of 24 hours before being allowed to go back to school. If your child had a severe cough, there must be a significant improvement in the cough before they are allowed to return.

Financial entitlements in the event of isolation/quarantine

If you have to go into isolation because you have the coronavirus disease and have been signed off work by a doctor, you are entitled to continued payment of your salary or to daily sickness benefits. The continued payment of salary is governed by the Swiss Code of Obligations. This obliges your employer to keep paying you for at least three weeks. Many employers take out insurance so that employees who are absent for longer periods receive daily sickness benefits covering 80 percent of their pay. Check with your employer and your employment contract to find out what arrangements apply to you. If you are self-employed, your entitlement to financial compensation will depend on whether you have taken out daily sickness benefit insurance.

If you have to go into quarantine because you have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive, you are entitled to compensation for loss of earnings. You have this entitlement if quarantine was ordered by a cantonal office or a doctor. You can submit your claim for compensation to the compensation office to which your employer or you yourself, if you are self-employed, are affiliated. Use the application form provided by your compensation office. Note: In the current situation it may be that the cantonal office cannot order quarantine. In this case you can still fill in the application form in any case. Mention on the form that you were not contacted by the cantonal office.

You will find more information on compensation for loss of earnings (in German, French and Italian) on the website of the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO).

You will find the rules on quarantine for people entering th country on the quarantine for persons arriving in Switzerland page.

Medical certificate

Talk to your employer about when you need to present a medical certificate. In the current situation, we recommend employers are accommodating when it comes to demanding medical certificates.

Further information

Disease, symptoms, treatment

Information on Covid-19, the symptoms and the range of illness severity as well as the origin of the new coronavirus

Last modification 18.01.2021

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