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‘Test tsunami’: Swiss test centres booked out ahead of summer holidays

Test centres across Switzerland are booked out for the coming weeks, with travellers scrambling to find test sites ahead of planned holidays.

'Test tsunami': Swiss test centres booked out ahead of summer holidays
A line in front of a test centre. Photo: THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

While travel has reopened across Europe and much of the world, a central component of pandemic holidays is the negative test. 

Countries in Europe and further afield require negative tests in order to allow entry, even if people have been vaccinated. 

In many instances, people will need to get negative PCR test results in order to satisfy airline requirements or rules on arrival. 

Entry, masks and nightclubs: What are the rules in some of Switzerland’s favourite holiday destinations?

This has caused a run on appointments, with some testing stations booked out for weeks – particular amid the school holidays. 

No appointments in Zurich

In the Zurich test centre, there are no appointments before the start of holidays on July 17th, as is the drive-in centre in Dübendorf. 

A representative of the Zurich health department said an opening of more sites was being considered. 

Pharmacies too report being booked out over the coming weeks due to high demand. 

Natalia Blarer, the chair of the Zurich Pharmacists Association, said they’ve been at their limit since Switzerland announced nightclubs could reopen for people who had tested negative. 

“There is far too little test capacity. We can’t handle it at all,” Blarer said, calling the demand a “test tsunami”. 

Blarer said the government “opened the floodgates for travel and nightlife – but did not improve testing conditions”. 

No luck in neighbouring cantons

Anyone wanting to get a test in a neighbouring canton might be out of luck as well, with dozens of them closing in recent weeks. 

Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes reports that testing centres have closed down in cantons adjacent to Zurich after the government decided to lower the tariffs paid for testing. 

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COVID-19 TESTS

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.

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