Coronavirus: Tests

Testing is a key measure in managing the epidemic. To detect as many cases of infection as possible, people with and without symptoms are tested.

Costs of tests

The federal government will cover the costs as follows:

PCR tests

The federal government covers the costs of individual PCR tests in the following cases:

  • You have a test on the basis of symptoms.
  • You have received a notification from the SwissCovid app.
  • You have been instructed by a cantonal authority or a doctor to have a test.

The federal government does not cover the costs of PCR tests in the following cases:

  • You need a negative test result for travel. In this case we recommend that you find out in advance how much it will cost.

Pooled PCR tests

The federal government covers the costs of pooled PCR tests in the following cases:

  • You take part in organised testing (e.g. at work or for a camp).

Rapid antigen tests

The federal government covers all the costs of rapid tests that you have done at a testing centre, at your doctor’s, in a hospital or at a pharmacy. These types of tests are thus also free of charge if you don’t have symptoms of the coronavirus.

Antigen self-tests

In the following cases you are entitled to obtain 5 tests every 30 days from pharmacies free of charge:

  • You have still not been fully vaccinated.
  • You have still not been infected with the coronavirus.

You can also buy self-test kits in drugstores and retail outlets. You must pay for self-tests that you buy in drugstores or retail outlets yourself.

In the event of symptoms, get tested immediately

Get tested immediately if you have coronavirus symptoms. You should also get tested if you only have very mild or isolated symptoms. Also get tested if you suspect you have been infected (e.g. following contact with an infected person or after receiving a notification from the SwissCovid app).

Extended testing strategy: testing without symptoms

To detect as many coronavirus infections as possible and thus support the gradual easing of restrictions on social activities and economic life, people without symptoms also have the option of being tested. This does not apply to fully vaccinated people as well as to recovered people.

The testing strategy includes the following principles:

  • Regular testing in companies and institutions
  • Testing for personal reasons and as part of precautionary measures

Regular testing in companies and institutions

People should be regularly tested in companies, schools and other institutions. This ensures early detection of chains of infection in locations where lots of people come into contact. These tests should primarily be carried out with pooled PCR saliva samples on site. In this form of testing, the samples are not analysed individually, but in a single pooled sample. You can find out more about how this type of test works in the Overview of test types.

Please note:

  • The institution carrying out these tests is responsible for implementation.
  • Tests (pooled tests and rapid tests) that turn out positive must be immediately confirmed with PCR tests. For this purpose everyone who took part in the test must have an individual PCR test. This is important to find out which people are infected. You will find more information in the section on what to do in the event of a positive test result.
  • Participation in such tests is voluntary.
  • It is not recommended for people who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID to take part in regular tests.

Tests for personal reasons and as part of precautionary measures

All the costs of rapid tests are covered regardless of whether they were done because of symptoms or for personal reasons. This is particularly the case if:

  • You get tested to protect people at especially high risk, e.g. to visit your grandparents or someone in hospital.
  • You get tested as part of precautionary measures.
  • For people who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from COVID, testing is only recommended in the event of symptoms or contact with positive cases. 

Tests without symptoms - what to do after you get your test result

If you have no symptoms and the result from a rapid test, self-test or pooled PCR sample is positive, the following applies:

What to do in the event of a positive test result

Getting a positive result from a rapid test, self-test or pooled sample initially only means that you are suspected to have been infected with coronavirus. You should therefore:

  • Get the test result confirmed with a PCR test.
  • Go to your doctor, a test centre, a hospital or pharmacy to get the test result confirmed.
  • Stay at home until you have received the test result.
  • In the event of a positive PCR test result: follow the instructions under What to do in the event of a positive test result: Isolation.
  • In the event of a negative PCR test result: it is highly likely that you do not have coronavirus. However, it is important that you continue to follow the rules on hygiene and social distancing.

What to do in the event of a negative test result

If the result of the rapid test, self-test or pooled sample is negative, then it is highly likely that you were not contagious at the time of the test. However, this is a snapshot that is only meaningful for a short time. A negative test result does not necessarily mean that you do not have coronavirus. It is therefore important that you follow the rules on hygiene and social distancing.

The fact sheet ‘Tests without symptoms – what to do after you get your test result’ provides a graphical overview of what to do next (available in German (PDF, 268 kB, 03.05.2021), French (PDF, 255 kB, 03.05.2021) and Italian (PDF, 247 kB, 03.05.2021) only).

Note: This testing strategy corresponds to the FOPH’s recommendation. Implementation is the responsibility of the cantons and may deviate from the recommendation.

An overview of the types of test

The range of different tests and their availability is evolving constantly. The details of each test can be found in the text and the video below.

PCR test

A positive PCR test indicates you are infected with the COVID-19 virus. PCR tests can be done by means of a nose and throat swab, a throat swab or a saliva sample. For this reason, some institutions may also do a PCR test on a saliva sample. The result is generally available within 24 to 48 hours. The swab is done by your doctor or at a hospital or test centre. The sample is then analysed in a licensed laboratory.

Pooled PCR test

In a pooled PCR test, the saliva samples of several people are combined in one pooled sample. The laboratory analyses this pooled sample. If the result of the pooled sample is positive, individual samples will subsequently have to be taken to identify which person is infected. For this purpose an individual PCR test will be done.

Rapid antigen test

Rapid antigen tests yield a result within 15 to 20 minutes. Like PCR tests, they determine whether you are infected with the new coronavirus. The test is done by means of a nose and throat swab. It cannot be done on a saliva sample. Since rapid antigen tests yield a less reliable result than PCR tests, in certain situations a positive result from a rapid test will be confirmed with a PCR test.

Antigen self-test

You can test yourself for coronavirus using an antigen self-test. You take the sample yourself by doing a nose swab, and then read off the result. The result of the test is available within 15 to 20 minutes. Follow the enclosed instructions on how to carry out a self-test. Self-tests can determine whether you are contagious at the time of the test.

Caution: Self-tests provide a less reliable result than PCR tests or rapid antigen tests. It is therefore possible that even if the test is negative, you may be infected with coronavirus and be able to pass it on to others. This is why self-tests are no substitute for the hygiene and social distancing rules and any precautionary measures that are in place. In other words, even if you get a negative result, you should still keep your distance, wear a mask and wash your hands. However, the self-test provides extra protection in addition to these measures. It can make sense to do a self-test before a meeting that is taking place anyway (e.g. before an outdoor barbecue or training session at a youth sports club); in this case it should be done immediately before the event in question.

In the following situations, we advise you not to use a self-test and instead to get tested by a professional at your doctor’s, at a pharmacy, in a hospital or at a testing centre:

  • You have coronavirus symptoms.
  • You have had contact with someone who has tested positive.
  • You are in quarantine.
  • You wish to spend time around people at especially high risk. 
  • You need a negative test result to enter Switzerland. You’ll find information on this on the page Entering Switzerland.

The video below shows how a self-test is used. This is an example with one type of test. Please always follow the instructions for the specific test brand you are using.

You will see what to do once you have your test result in the section Tests without symptoms - what to do after you get your test result. 

The following applies to all types of test described above: Please consult your doctor if you have had a negative test result and:

  • Your symptoms worsen or you get additional symptoms of the new coronavirus.
  • Your symptoms persist for more than 2 days after testing and do not improve.
  • You find out that during the 14 days before your symptoms started you were in contact with someone who tested positive.

Serological test

Serological tests detect certain antibodies in the blood, in this case those developed against the new coronavirus. The presence of a person’s own antibodies indicates that they have already been in contact with the virus or have been vaccinated. Serological tests are very useful for studies of the population, for example to monitor the development of herd immunity. They are currently not recommended at the individual level because they provide only limited information about the degree and duration of protection from possible re-infection.

Where can I get a test?

You can be tested for the new coronavirus at various doctors, test centres, hospitals and pharmacies.
The cantons are responsible for assuring access to tests. For this reason, you will find information on the various testing facilities on the relevant cantonal websites:

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Answers to frequently asked questions concerning tests can be found here.

Further information

Isolation and quarantine

What to do in the event of symptoms and following contact with an infected person, information on isolation and quarantine and recommendations for symptomatic children

Protect yourself and others

Rules on hygiene and social distancing: keep your distance, wash your hands, cough/sneeze into a paper tissue/the crook of your arm, stay at home if you experience symptoms, recommendations on wearing masks and working from home

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 25.06.2021

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