For members


Switzerland: Do antigen tests detect Omicron?

Some early indications have suggested that antigen tests sometimes fail to detect Omicron infections. What is the latest situation in Switzerland?

Antigen test for Covid-19. Photo: Ben STANSALL / AFP
Antigen test for Covid-19. Do they detect Omicron? Photo: Ben STANSALL / AFP

Health authorities are concerned that antigen tests are not sensitive enough to detect Omicron, leading to ‘false negative’ results.

While is not uncommon for the more sensitive and accurate PCR screening to contradict the results of rapid tests, this appears to be happening more regularly in the case of the Omicron variant. 

Patrick Mathys, head of the crisis management section at the Federal Office of Public Health confirmed that rapid antigenic tests “seem to have sensitivity problems” in recognising Omicron.

“This needs to be looked at closely internationally. We can then decide how to use these tests in the future”, he said.

One option could be to make PCR testing more accessible, or to rejig the existing antigen tests so that they are more effective in detecting the Omicron variant. 

Experts are as yet unclear as to why the tests are less effective with Omicron and are currently conducting research into why this is the case. 

What does this mean for me?

As yet, this has not led to a change in Swiss government policy with regard to testing. 

Tests are still required for entry into Switzerland and tests are also required to access nightclubs and similar venues where the 2G-Plus rule is in place. 

EXPLAINED: What is Switzerland’s 2G-Plus rule?

For those who want to be as sure as possible, a PCR test is recommended – although these are sometimes costly. 

While they may not be as foolproof as PCR tests, antigen tests are still an important weapon in the fight against Covid and will still detect infection in many cases. 

“It is useful to use it rather than not to use it, because when the test is positive, one can refrain from having the contacts which one would have had without it. It contributes to the risk reduction”, Samia Hurst, vice-president of the Swiss Covid Taskforce, told RTS

What are The Local’s reader questions?

As part of our service to our readers and members, we often answer questions on life in Switzerland via email. 

When these have value to the greater Local Switzerland community, we put them together as an article. 

For obvious reasons, recent questions have tended to focus on the Covid pandemic and the Swiss government’s rules, although reader questions can be about anything that’s on your mind. 

If you’d like to have a question answered – or just want to get in touch – drop us a line at [email protected]

Here are some examples of reader questions we have published. 

Reader question: Which do staff see when scanning my Swiss Covid certificate?

Reader question: How can I legally reduce my rent in Switzerland?

Reader question: Does Switzerland celebrate Halloween?

Reader question: What does being ‘successfully integrated’ in Switzerland mean?

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For members


Most PCR tests no longer free in Switzerland

As the quarantine obligation for contact persons was lifted from Thursday, Swiss government will continue to cover only a limited number of tests.

Only certain people, like elderly care home residents, will continue to have free PCR tests. Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/ AFP
Only certain people, like elderly care home residents, will continue to have free PCR tests. Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG/ AFP

Before the new rule went into effect Wednesday at midnight, the government paid for PCR screening for contact persons — those who live with or had “regular and close” contact with someone who tested positive. 

Under the previous framework, anyone who had close contact with a Covid-positive person was required to isolate for five days. 

But since these contacts are no longer required to quarantine, their PCR tests are not covered.

However, according to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), there are a range of exceptions.

The government will continue to pay costs of screening for certain groups of people, including those living in elderly care facilities, hospital patients and healthcare workers, as well as people who are at a particularly high risk, such as those undergoing chemotherapy.

All the others will have to pay for their tests themselves; prices for PCR tests range from 110 to 195 francs, depending on the screening location and rapidity of results.

The Federal Council announced the lifting of contact quarantine on February  2nd, along with the end of the home-working obligation.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Swiss to end quarantine and working from home obligation from Wednesday

Other measures, like the Covid certificate requirement and restrictions on private meetings, could be scrapped from February 17th, provided Switzerland’s  epidemiological situation allows it.