Last updated on 11.10.2021

How does repeat testing work?

Various certified tests available

There are various COVID-19 tests available in Switzerland that have been certified by independent bodies and the FOPH. You should therefore use the test being offered in your business, school or club.

Different types of tests and what a positive test means

Have you been tested and received a positive result? In this overview, you will find all the answers to questions concerning the different types of tests with respect to isolation, contact quarantine, vaccination and the COVID certificate.

PCR test

A PCR test detects whether you have been infected with coronavirus. The test is performed by your doctor, or in hospitals or test centres using a nose and throat swab, a throat swab or a saliva sample. According to the latest research, all these tests are equally reliable. The sample is analysed in a licensed laboratory and the result is generally available after 24 to 48 hours.

close

Characteristics

  • Nose and throat swab, throat swab or saliva sample
  • Performed by specialist staff
  • Result available after 24 to 48 hours.

What does a positive result mean?

  • You have been infected with the coronavirus.
  • Following your recovery, you are generally protected for six months against re-infection.

What do I need to do?

Vaccination

  • Vaccination is recommended for long-term protection.
  • From four weeks after a confirmed coronavirus infection, a single vaccine dose is sufficient.
  • If you are vaccinated before these four weeks have elapsed, two vaccine doses are required and the symptoms must have subsided.
  • Further information can be found on the page Vaccination.

I have been fully vaccinated. Do I have to go into quarantine?

  • You don’t need to quarantine for 12 months from the time that you were fully vaccinated. You don’t need to automatically inform the authorities, but you do need a vaccination certificate. The cantonal authorities may request such a certificate as part of contact tracing.

COVID certificate

  • You can apply for a COVID certificate to confirm your recovery, provided your illness was no more than 180 days ago.
  • If you have received enough vaccine doses, you can also apply for a certificate for your vaccination.
  • Further information can be found on the page COVID certificate.

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

  • You are getting tested because you have symptoms.
  • You received a notification from the SwissCovid app.
  • You were told to get tested by a cantonal authority or doctor.
  • You need an individual PCR test to confirm the result of a positive rapid test, self-test or pooled test.

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

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

Rapid antigen test

Rapid antigen tests yield a result on a potential coronavirus infection within 15 to 20 minutes. Unlike PCR tests, rapid antigen tests are performed via a nose and throat swab. The result is less reliable than a PCR test, which is why positive results must be confirmed with a PCR test.

close

Characteristics

  • Nose and throat swab
  • Test performed by specialist staff
  • Result available within 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Result is less reliable than a PCR test. A positive result should generally be confirmed with a PCR test.
  • Information on what to do next can be found on the page Tests.

What does a positive result mean?

  • If you have reason to suspect you have been infected: you have been infected with the coronavirus.
  • If you have no reason to suspect you have been infected: it is quite possible that you have been infected with the coronavirus.
  • Following your recovery, you are generally protected for six months against re-infection.

What do I need to do?

  • Self-isolate.
  • Do a confirmatory PCR test, especially if you have no reason to suspect you have been infected.
  • Further information can be found on the page Isolation and quarantine.

Vaccination

  • Vaccination is recommended for long-term protection.
  • From four weeks after a confirmed coronavirus infection, a single vaccine dose is sufficient.
  • If you are vaccinated before these four weeks have elapsed, two vaccine doses are required and the symptoms must have subsided.
  • Further information can be found on the page Vaccination.

I have been fully vaccinated. Do I have to go into quarantine?

  • You don’t need to quarantine for 12 months from the time that you were fully vaccinated. You don’t need to automatically inform the authorities, but you do need a vaccination certificate. The cantonal authorities may request such a certificate as part of contact tracing.

COVID certificate

  • With a positive rapid antigen test, it is not possible to apply for a COVID certificate to confirm recovery.
  • Have your illness confirmed with a positive PCR test to be able to apply for a certificate.
  • If you have received enough vaccine doses, you can also apply for a certificate for your vaccination.
  • Further information can be found on the page COVID certificate.

Assumption of costs

  • Since the 11 October 2021, the costs have no longer been covered by the federal government.

Exceptions:

  • People with symptoms and contacts of people with confirmed cases of COVID-19
  • Tests to confirm a positive rapid test, self-test or pooled test
  • Repeat testing in schools, businesses, camps, clubs and healthcare facilities (possible for staff, patients, residents and visitors)
  • Children under 16
  • People who can provide evidence that they cannot be vaccinated
  • People who have received the first dose of vaccine but are still waiting for the second
  • If the test was ordered by the competent cantonal authority

Antigen self-test

For testing immediately before taking part in activities in social settings, there is a specific type of test available in Switzerland: the nasal self-test. This involves taking a sample from inside both nostrils by inserting a swab inside the nostril (approx. 2cm parallel to the palate). Detailed instructions on how to take the sample and perform the test correctly can be found on the packaging. Make sure you get your self-tests from a pharmacy.

close

Characteristics

  • Nose swab
  • Test performed yourself
  • Result available within 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Result is less reliable than a PCR test and rapid antigen test. A positive result must be confirmed with a PCR test.

What does a positive result mean?

  • You have possibly been infected with the coronavirus.

What do I need to do?

  • Self-isolate.
  • Have the test result confirmed by a PCR test.
  • Information on what to do next can be found on the page Tests.

Assumption of costs

  • The costs of self-tests have no longer been covered by the federal government since 1 October 2021.

Serology test (antibody test)

Serology tests detect the presence in the blood of specific antibodies that the body has developed to fight the new coronavirus – whether as a result of infection or a reaction to immunisation.

close

Characteristics

  • Detects certain antibodies in the blood that have been developed against the new coronavirus.
  • The presence of antibodies indicates that a person has already been in contact with the virus or has been vaccinated.
  • Useful for population studies, for example to monitor the development of herd immunity.
  • Not currently recommended at an individual level, as only limited information is available as regards the degree and duration of protection offered against possible re-infection.

What does a positive result mean?

  • You have recently been infected with the coronavirus or have gone through the illness.
  • A serological test cannot show when the illness was.
  • It is unclear whether and for how long protection exists against re-infection.

Vaccination

  • Vaccination is recommended for long-term protection.
  • If the positive test result is at least two weeks old, a single vaccination dose is sufficient.

COVID certificate

  • With a serological test, it is not possible to apply for a COVID certificate to confirm recovery.
  • If you have received enough vaccine doses, however, you can apply for a certificate for your vaccination.
  • Further information can be found on the page COVID certificate.

Assumption of costs

  • The costs for the test are not covered other than in a few exceptions.
  • In principle, serological tests are not recommended. Further information can be found on the page Vaccination.

How a pooled test works for organisations

Thanks to established logistics and processes in the cantons, businesses, schools and other organisations can carry out repeat pooled tests for groups of five people or more. The samples are pooled, which allows larger groups of people to be tested rapidly.

Important for businesses, schools and institutions:

  • The federal government and cantons cover all equipment and logistic costs.
  • The laboratory provides instructions on sample collection.
  • The organisation only needs to organise sample collection and labelling. Both can be done without any prior knowledge or special skills. The following video shows how PCR tests are pooled.

Repeat testing uses saliva PCR tests where the person being tested submits a saliva sample by spitting into a tube. The test is not performed by professionals. You can find more details of how to perform this test on the packaging.

Find out on your canton’s website how you can register your business for repeat testing and how it is implemented.

In any case: a positive test result must be confirmed with an individual PCR test

Regardless of whether you get a positive result from repeat testing in your workplace, from a rapid antigen test or from a home self-test, it must be confirmed with an individual PCR test at a test centre, pharmacy, hospital or doctor’s surgery.