When the SARS-CoV-2 virus arrived in Switzerland it was difficult to qualify for a test and patients had to pay for them themselves, with health insurance covering a portion of the cost for some people.
Then over the summer, the federal government offered to cover the cost of the tests, but only for those meeting certain requirements. For example healthy people had to have symptoms.
On 5 March 2021, the government announced that everyone will soon qualify for free tests. To ensure that everyone can be tested rapidly, all tests in pharmacies and test centres will be free of charge, even for people without symptoms, said the government.
The move is part of a strategy to improve the prevention and early detection of outbreaks by allowing companies and schools to conduct regular testing.
Employees at companies that test frequently can be exempted from the quarantine requirement for persons who have had contact with someone who has tested positive. In addition, the Federal Council wants to provide each member of the public with five free self-tests a month as soon as reliable tests are available.
Schools and companies would be able to used pooled saliva tests, a more rapid solution. Self testing would also be possible. However, these tests will be less effective and more likely to generate false negatives than PCR tests, said the government.
The cost of expanding testing is estimated at over CHF 1 billion. The Federal Council will make a final decision on the plan after consulting the cantons on 12 March 2021. If finalised, the new scheme would start on 15 March 2021.