Like many of its neighbors, Switzerland has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, both in terms of public health and the economy. In addition, if you live in the country as a foreigner, it can be hard to find the latest COVID-related news and access the right healthcare for you and your loved ones.
Thankfully, there are lots of online resources you can use. For practical information, visit the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) website, which covers measures, vaccines, testing, and more. Swiss Info also provides updates and data about the current national situation in ten different languages. To help you find this information and more, this guide to coronavirus in Switzerland includes:
- Coronavirus in Switzerland
- Coronavirus rules and measures in Switzerland
- Apps for COVID-19 in Switzerland
- Coronavirus testing in Switzerland
- COVID-19 vaccinations in Switzerland
- International travel during COVID-19 in Switzerland
- Long COVID support in Switzerland
- COVID-19 support for businesses, self-employed, and freelancers in Switzerland
- Coronavirus and education in Switzerland
- COVID-19 support for vulnerable people in Switzerland
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Coronavirus in Switzerland
Switzerland’s case numbers have generally followed the trend of other European countries. Indeed, the country had a challenging second wave in the winter of 2020/21 and tried to lower case numbers with public health measures and a vaccine rollout. For the most up-to-date information on cases in Switzerland and beyond, visit the World Health Organization’s website.
On a national level, the Federal Office of Public Health website provides information on how to get vaccinated, testing, and more.
Coronavirus rules and measures in Switzerland
On 16 March 2020, the government issued a State of Extraordinary Situation. This signaled the start of measures to lower the rate of coronavirus in Switzerland. Since spring 2020, the government has tightened and relaxed these measures as it sees fit. You can find the latest rules on the Federal Office of Public Health’s website. Measures against coronavirus in Switzerland have included:
- Lockdowns: Switzerland has never had a full lockdown, but it closed schools in March and April 2020, while all non-essential workers worked from home. Since then, some sectors have been closed and reopened during COVID-19 waves.
- Border controls: Switzerland has never fully closed its borders during the pandemic, but it has had strict rules since March 2020. You can find information on who may enter Switzerland, and what requirements apply on the website of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). These relate to vaccination status, your residence, and whether you are traveling from a high-risk area.
- Masks: Switzerland brought in a mask mandate on public transport on 6 July 2020. In October 2020, they became compulsory in public indoor spaces. The rules on mask-wearing vary depending on the canton and the rate of cases, so check the federal website for the most up-to-date information.
- Contact tracing: Switzerland has introduced in-person and digital tracing through the SwissCovid app. Users can check into events and the app alerts other attendees if someone later tests positive. In addition, the cantonal authorities work with positive cases to find their recent contacts for up to 48 hours before their test.
For the latest public health measures, visit Switzerland’s Federal Office and Public Health website.
Apps for COVID-19 in Switzerland
To help manage the virus, the Swiss government used the SwissCovid app. This digital contact tracing is voluntary. However, for the app to work, users must keep their phones on them at all times and enable its Bluetooth feature.
Furthermore, Switzerland also has COVID certificates. These show that you are fully vaccinated, have had the disease, or have a negative test result. You can request the COVID certificate on paper or as a PDF document with a QR code that you can display on your phone.
Coronavirus testing in Switzerland
As part of its coronavirus measures, Switzerland has promoted repeat testing and contact tracing to control the spread of the virus. There are two types of tests available in Switzerland: PCR test and rapid lateral flow.
The federal government covers the costs of PCR tests for certain people, including those who have:
- COVID-19 symptoms
- heard from the SwissCovid App that they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive
- been instructed to do so by a cantonal authority or medical doctor
The federal government does not cover the costs of PCR tests for international travel.
Each canton organizes its own PCR tests, but you should be able to get a test at your GP office, test centers, hospitals, and pharmacies. The PCR test is usually a throat and nose swab, which a lab then analyzes. It takes 24–48 hours to receive your result.
Rapid antigen tests
Switzerland also uses rapid antigen tests. These tests give a result in 15–20 minutes. Often, you will need to confirm a positive result with a PCR test. Also known as lateral flow tests, you can find these at testing centers, GPs, hospitals, and pharmacies. The government covers the costs of these tests if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case or have symptoms and if the test is carried out by a professional.
On the other hand, costs for lateral flow self-tests are not covered. You can buy these kits at pharmacies, drug stores, and other selected retail outlets. These usually cost around CHF 50.
If you test positive for COVID-19 in Switzerland
Should you receive a positive test result for coronavirus in Switzerland, you must go straight into isolation. This means staying at home for at least ten days plus 48 hours after the end of your symptoms.
If you start to have more severe complications due to COVID-19, such as persistent fever, persistent coughing, shortness of breath, bluish lips, or weakness, call your doctor.
For the latest information on coronavirus testing in Switzerland, visit the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH)’s website.
COVID-19 vaccinations in Switzerland
Switzerland started its vaccine rollout in December 2020. In terms of vaccination rates, Switzerland has a 64% vaccination rate as of November 2021. COVID-19 vaccines are free for people with basic health insurance, foreign nationals living in Switzerland, cross-border commuters, and Swiss nationals living abroad (and their immediate family). As of November 2021, residents can receive the following vaccines in Switzerland:
You can receive your vaccine at vaccination centers, hospitals, GP practices, and pharmacies. Check your cantonal website for specific venues.
The process for vaccination varies from canton to canton. Bear in mind that you might need to provide details of your health insurance. Once you are fully vaccinated, some cantons record your COVID-19 vaccine in your medical records, and you will be able to receive a COVID certificate.
Switzerland’s COVID certificate allows vaccinated people and those who have recovered from COVID access to certain risky public spaces. This is referred to as the red zone, which includes large-scale events, indoor events, indoor bars and restaurants, nightclubs, and other situations involving crowds. Businesses are also free to decide whether they implement a COVID certificate for outdoor areas of bars, open airs, fairs, and universities. But, again, this depends on which canton you live in.
International travel during COVID-19 in Switzerland
Following the near-total shutdown of international travel following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the world’s borders are slowly opening back up to travel, and Switzerland is no exception. However, restrictions remain, and these relate to your specific situation, so do your research ahead of time on the Swiss State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)’s website.
For those looking to travel to Switzerland, you should first check whether entry is allowed from your departure point. Border closures are possible between countries with a higher case rate or concerning variants.
However, if the borders are open, you will need proof of vaccination, a negative covid test, or evidence of recovery. You will also need to provide an entry form, although exceptions to this requirement exist for certain individuals, such as cross-border works. For more information on the latest travel restrictions, please check the SEM website.
If you live in Switzerland and want to travel to another country, you should check the entry requirements for the country you wish to visit to find the latest restrictions.
Long COVID support in Switzerland
Unfortunately, many people who catch COVID-19 suffer from long-term symptoms. For example, the Lancet found that 76% of hospitalized patients suffered from long COVID, while a Zurich University study found 20–25% and 2% of children who tested positive suffered from lingering symptoms.
Switzerland’s Federal Office for Public Health takes long COVID and mental health issues associated with the pandemic very seriously. On their website, they have information with resources to help those suffering from the effects of long COVID.
As well as federal resources, there are some support groups in Switzerland: These include:
- Altea Network – focuses on exchanging information on long COVID and provides a community for people suffering from long-term symptoms.
- Long COVID Schweiz (in German) – provides information and support for those living with long COVID, and aims to bring more awareness to the condition.
- Verband COVID Langzeitfolgen (in German) – offers in-depth information on the condition and legal concerns.
You can also find many helplines for mental health support regarding (long) COVID on the Swiss federal pages for COVID-19 information.
COVID-19 support for businesses, self-employed, and freelancers in Switzerland
Understandably, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Swiss economy hard. However, business owners and freelancers in Switzerland have various resources available to them to help them weather the storm. This includes business loans for small- and medium-sized enterprises, with the federal government keeping bureaucracy to a minimum to help the situation.
In April 2020, the federal government pledged CHF 40 billion to stimulate the economy and help businesses maintain at least 80% of the economy during the pandemic.
Furthermore, certain freelancers and self-employed people are entitled to 80% of their wages, with a maximum of CHF 196 per day.
Coronavirus and education in Switzerland
At the beginning of the pandemic, Switzerland temporarily closed its schools and universities, putting education online. Current restrictions in compulsory schools are the responsibility of your canton. These include mask-wearing and rules for school events.
Rules for universities are determined at the national level. Lectures must operate at two-thirds capacity, and masks must be worn unless the university implements a COVID certificate requirement. For more information on education in Switzerland, check out our education guide.
COVID-19 support for vulnerable people in Switzerland
Although the pandemic affects everybody in Switzerland, certain groups in Swiss society are more susceptible to the effects of coronavirus. This includes the elderly, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic conditions. The government offers some advice on the federal health website.
Many people have faced financial, physical, and mental hardship due to the crisis. Here are some Swiss charities and helplines to assist you:
- Caritas – advice and counseling on debt and finance concerns
- Swiss Red Cross – emergency advice and aid. Search for your canton’s Red Cross for specific help
- Pro Infirmis – help for people with disabilities
- Pro Juventute – support for young people’s mental health
- Schweizerisches Arbeiterhilfswerk SAH – support and advice relating to employment