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Reader question: Are self-tests now free in Switzerland again?

Switzerland has again agreed to cover the costs of some Covid tests, but does this apply to pharmacy-bought take-at-home tests?

A person with a self-test for Covid-19
Covid-19 self-tests have not been made free by the government under the new regulations. Photo: Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP

As of Saturday, December 18th, individual antigen and pooled PCR tests are free in Switzerland. 

As part of the raft of new measures and rules announced on December 17th, the Swiss government again pledged to cover the costs for Covid tests, making testing now free in most instances. 

Testing was free throughout much of the summer, however the government stopped covering the costs of the tests from early October in order to encourage people to get vaccinated. 

Are self-tests now free again?

Self-tests – otherwise known as at-home tests which were available in pharmacies – are not covered by the regulation and are therefore not free.  

The regulation sought to make testing free which would be relevant for the Covid certificate, i.e. tests for people with the 2G-Plus rule. 

As self-tests are not sufficient here, they are not covered. 

While these will still be available from pharmacies – and are increasingly popular ahead of Christmas gatherings – anyone wanting to use one will need to cover the costs themselves. 

Why is some testing free again? 

Switzerland’s Covid situation has worsened in recent weeks, with higher case rates than ever and fuller ICUs than ever. 

Testing allows infected people to be identified and isolate, thereby slowing the spread of the virus. 

While those who have been vaccinated will have a less severe course of the symptoms, they can still catch and spread the virus in some cases. 

One of the major reasons the government decided to stop covering the costs of tests back in October was in order to encourage vaccination. 

As a result of the October change, people who were unvaccinated but were getting tested regularly in order to have a Covid certificate would need to pay the costs of the tests themselves. 

Under the rules in effect as at December 18th, people can no longer get a negative test for the Covid certificate, so the incentive to vaccinate is still there. 

Another major reason for the change was the cost of testing, which was estimated at four million francs per day. 

Switzerland ends free Covid testing: Everything you need to know

As yet, it is unclear as to what the daily costs of covering the tests will now be, given that it is expected fewer people will get tested as the tests no longer confer a Covid certificate. 

 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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