Coronavirus: the most important facts at a glance

The situation is changing all the time. What do I need to know and who can I turn to? Answers to burning questions.

19.11.2021 Gabriela Braun

You want to be tested for coronavirus, but aren’t sure if the costs will be covered? How to best protect yourself and others and what to be aware of when travelling: we’ll give you an overview of the most pressing issues. 

To contain the spread of the coronavirus, on 13 September 2021 the Federal Council decided to introduce the requirement for a COVID certificate to access indoor areas of restaurants, cultural and leisure facilities, and events. Some hospitals reacted to this move by also introducing mandatory COVID certificates. In general, the requirement applies to visitors. COVID certificates can be obtained by individuals who have been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative. Visitors who do not have a certificate can usually undergo a rapid antigen test in an on-site test centre to obtain the certificate.

Basic insurance covers all of the benefits provided for, regardless of whether individuals have a certificate or not. The federal government covers the costs (and will continue to do so after 1 October) of rapid antigen testing for visitors to hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes and other socio-medical institutes.

You only need to go into mandatory quarantine if you have been in close contact with a person who is sick. That’s because in the days following your contact with this person, you could be infectious without realising it. If you have to go into quarantine, the relevant cantonal authority will contact you and inform you how to proceed.

Please consult the FOPH’s website for detailed information about what to do and answers to other questions. The link is provided below.

You need to immediately self-isolate at home to avoid infecting others. Get tested. How long you self-isolate depends on the test results. If you test positive, the responsible cantonal authority will get in touch with you and give you further information and instructions. 

You will find the FOPH guidelines on self-isolation in this PDF. 

Please consult the FOPH’s website for detailed information about what to do and answers to other questions. The link is provided below.  

Doctors, hospitals, pharmacies, laboratories, home nursing providers and dedicated testing centres run by or on behalf of the canton all offer testing. Along with the usual test (PCR), they also offer an antigen quick test. 

Retirement homes, nursing homes and socio-medical institutes offer tests for residents, staff and visitors. 

To identify as many infections as possible, people both with and without symptoms are tested. You can find information on testing facilities on cantonal test sites; the FOPH website offers an overview. The link is provided below. 

Do the coronavirus check. If it recommends that you get tested, you’ll receive instructions on how to proceed.

The federal government covers the costs of conventional coronavirus tests (PCR) if:

  • The person shows at least one of the symptoms defined by the FOPH (e.g. symptoms of an acute respiratory disease).
  • The person has received a notification from the SwissCovid app. Since 11 October 2021, individuals can be tested immediately after receiving notification through the SwissCovid app.
  • The person takes saliva PCR pool tests, which result in a COVID certificate in the case of a positive pool and a subsequent negative individual PCR test.
  • The person undergoes a pooled molecular biology test. Individuals who do not exhibit any symptoms can undergo pooled molecular biology tests. The federal government covers the costs for individuals aged under 16, individuals who can prove that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, and individuals who have already received one dose of the vaccine.*
  • The cantonal doctors state that the test is necessary to identify or control an outbreak.
  • It serves to protect persons who are at high risk. Certain group categories can be tested repeatedly in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes and at other socio-medical institutes.
  • The person can prove that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.

As of 18 December 2021, the federal government covers the costs of rapid antigen tests for specialist use that result in a COVID certificate.

The costs of antibody tests are only covered under very special conditions based on cantonal or doctor’s orders (e.g. in the case of severe immunodeficiency).

Self-tests can be obtained from various shops such as pharmacies and chemists, but you have to pay for these yourself.

Payment of costs for diagnostic sequencing

The federal government only covers the costs of diagnostic sequencing for Sars-CoV-2 through complete genome sequencing at the request of the responsible cantonal office and only if there is justified suspicion of an alarming Sars-CoV-2 variant. This particularly applies to severe individual development in hospitals, individual cases in severely immunocompromised people and the targeted sequencing of samples in outbreaks in hospitals, retirement homes and nursing homes.

Centralised pooling by healthcare facilities

The costs of centralised pooling by healthcare facilities for targeted, repeated tests will now be covered by the federal government.

Costs payable by the employer

The employer covers the costs if they have ordered the test.

An antigen quick test is less sensitive than the usual coronavirus test. It returns a result within 15 minutes. This test is best used in situations where someone is infectious but not considered particularly at risk. 

A trained professional carries out a quick antigen test using a nose and throat swab. The analysis is then carried out on site, i.e. in the pharmacy, at the doctor’s or in the hospital. 

The FOPH recommends using the quick test for people who:

  • Show the symptoms defined by the FOPH, as long as they have been present for no more than four days. 
  • Aren’t showing symptoms but have received a notification from the SwissCovid app.

Since 7 April 2021, self-test kits have been available from Swiss pharmacies. 

If you have not been vaccinated against or have not had COVID-19, the federal government will cover all costs for self-test kits until the end of September 2021, provided that a maximum of five tests are obtained within 30 days. The pharmacy bills the tests directly through the health insurer. The federal government also covers the excess and deductible. Refunds cannot be made via the customer. From 1 October, however, the costs of self-test kits will no longer be covered by the federal government. If you still want to purchase self-test kits, you will have to pay for them yourself.

Since 26 June 2021, drugstores and retail outlets can sell self-test kits. However, these are not financed by the federal government. You have to pay for them yourself.

You carry out the tests yourself with a nasal swab; you can see the result around 15 minutes later. 

If the self-test is positive, you will have to get a specialist to carry out a PCR test. This test is then free of charge. The specialist must report a positive result to the authorities and the tested individual will have to quarantine.

The cantons are providing the infrastructure for the COVID-19 vaccination. Please check the cantonal Department of Health website, where you will find information about the test centres and registration procedure. 

The vaccination is free for insured people, and is not subject to a deductible or excess. You will not receive an invoice. The costs are covered by the federal government, canton and health insurance.

Based on initial estimates, the Federal Council believes that the vaccination programme will cost a total of CHF 200–250 million, to be covered by basic insurance. These costs will not cause any increases in health insurance premiums.

It is always important to take a combination of different measures to prevent the transmission of the coronavirus, wherever you are. Together, these measures can significantly reduce the risk of an infection. 

  • Wash your hands regularly and well.
  • Cough or sneeze into a paper tissue or the crook of your elbow. Immediately dispose of the paper tissue after use.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Stay at home if you have a fever or cough.
  • Keep your distance.
  • Don’t shake hands.
  • Restrict your contact with other people to a minimum. 
  • Only go to the doctor or emergency department after you've made an appointment by phone.
  • Wear a mask whenever you are in public, particularly when you are unable to keep an appropriate distance from other people. . You should also wear a mask if you if you use a service or attend an event that has a safety concept that prescribes the wearing of masks. Please observe your local cantonal requirements.
  • Ventilate all rooms regularly. Always open the windows fully and ensure that air is flowing through the space. The more people in a room and the smaller the room, the more often you should ventilate it. Aerosols, which are tiny liquid droplets, remain suspended in the air for some time and quickly spread indoors. We release these when we breathe and speak – to an even greater degree when we laugh, shout and sing.
  • When we do things that make us breathe more intensely, such as physical work, sport, talking loudly and singing, it is particularly important to keep an appropriate distance from other people, wear masks and ventilate rooms more thoroughly.

Please consult the FOPH’s website for detailed information about what to do and answers to other questions. The link is provided below.

If you have the SwissCovid app, you can find out if you have been in contact with an infected person. This can help to break the chain of infection and prevent any resurgence of the epidemic. The SwissCovid app will also provide you with information on what to do if you have been in contact with an infected person. In this case you can be tested for free. We strongly recommend downloading the app. Watch this video to find out how simple it is.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) publishes recommendations for travellers that are updated on an ongoing basis. In addition to behaviour abroad, the recommendations also relate to possible measures after returning to Switzerland. Please note that a number of countries have announced restrictions and entry bans.

The provisions of our supplementary insurance solutions specify certain benefits that can be applied to travel in the context of the coronavirus problem:

  • Cancellations of hotel bookings and travelling costs, e.g. before leaving for a high-risk country are not covered.
  • Medically necessary costs for treatment by your doctor or in hospital are covered under the usual conditions for basic and supplementary insurance solutions TOP/OMNIA/COMPLETA/HOSPITAL/WORLD.
  • For treatment abroad, basic insurance covers a maximum of double the costs for comparable treatment under the Swiss tariff. This is generally insufficient for full cost coverage. To obtain full-cover confirmation of insurance for travelling abroad, you must have one of the following products: TOP, COMPLETA or WORLD.
  • Early returns owing to an epidemic are covered by the TOP/OMNIA and COMPLETA supplementary insurance, up to an amount of CHF 500. The return flight must start in a country which is affected by the coronavirus. WORLD supplementary insurance does not cover any contributions in this regard.
  • Extensions of hotel stays and travel rebooking costs owing to quarantine abroad are not insured.
  • The insurance does not cover preventative coronavirus tests which are required by an airline or which are necessary for entry into another country.
  • The insurance does not cover preventative quarantine in a hotel or hospital.
  • If the public transport booked or used for the trip is cancelled and the continuation of the trip in accordance with the programme is thus not assured, the WORLD supplementary insurance plan will organise and pay for the insured person's extra return journey or delayed onward journey. Costs owing to breakdowns or accidents of private vehicles or due to changes to or the cancellation of the travel programme by the tour operator are not insured.
  • Medically required repatriations to an insured person’s country of residence are insured under the TOP/OMNIA/COMPLETA/WORLD supplementary insurance plans*.

* Please note that hospital beds are not always available, either abroad or in Switzerland. The situation in different countries and regions can change on a daily basis. Repatriation to Switzerland is therefore difficult at present. Even Swiss Air-Rescue (Rega) only has limited options. If treatment in a foreign hospital is out of the question for you, we currently advise against going abroad.

If suitable medical care is unavailable, every effort will be made to repatriate you back to Switzerland and the costs will be covered by Helsana. However, this is only possible if a jet and a hospital bed in Switzerland are available. If appropriate treatment can be provided abroad, repatriation is usually not insured. Circumstances permitting, Helsana will nevertheless do everything in its power to repatriate you to Switzerland provided you have concluded the appropriate supplementary insurance. Medically necessary repatriation to an insured person’s country of residence is insured under the TOP/OMNIA/COMPLETA/WORLD supplementary insurance plans*. By contrast, the benefits catalogue for compulsory health insurance does not include repatriation to Switzerland.

* Please note that hospital beds are not always available, either abroad or in Switzerland. The situation in different countries and regions can change on a daily basis. Repatriation to Switzerland is therefore difficult at present. Even Swiss Air-Rescue (Rega) only has limited options. If treatment in a foreign hospital is out of the question for you, we currently advise against going abroad.

If you are currently having problems making your payments to Helsana, please contact us. You can contact your personal advisory team. You can find the telephone number on your policy and benefit statement or under our contacts. You can also reach us easily and securely via your myHelsana client portal. We will find an individual solution together.

You can order your medication from one of our partner pharmacies. Medically prescribed medication will be sent to your home and charged directly to Helsana. You can find the homepages with the contact details of our online pharmacies under partner companies.

No, don't stop using medication that was prescribed by a doctor on your own initiative. If you're worried, contact your doctor by phone.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are reports of long-term complications associated with COVID-19 for patients of all ages. Those affected have reported symptoms lasting months including severe exhaustion, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat and memory problems, which sometimes make it impossible to return to work or daily life. According to WHO, there are not yet any completed studies with figures on the number of patients impacted.

If patients need to be transferred abroad due to a lack of hospital beds in Switzerland, the FOPH or respective canton is responsible for establishing the legal conditions. They manage the allocation of transfer and accommodation costs, and the Swiss hospital or cantonal doctor would be responsible for arranging the transfer. 

If you travel abroad of your own will, this is considered elective treatment, and is only covered by certain supplementary insurance policies. 

This information comes from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the Robert Koch Institute.

Exclusion of liability

The information on health topics listed here is general advice and is provided for information purposes only. It is not intended to replace any medical advice. If you have health problems, you should always seek advice from a doctor or health care professional.

My contacts

Medical advice line

For questions relating to medical treatment upon suspicion of the coronavirus, your attending physician is responsible.

The healthcare professionals of Medi24 are also continuing to help our customers around the clock in connection with health-related questions through the provision of specific recommendations – expert, independent and free advice for all Helsana customers..
Tel. 0800 100 008

Insurance cover and assistance in Switzerland and abroad

Should you have any questions relating to the scope of your insurance cover in Switzerland, you can contact our Customer Services.
Tel. 0844 80 81 82

Our International Customer Service will be happy to answer questions on the scope of your insurance cover abroad.
Tel. +41 58 340 18 80

Customers who have already been hospitalised or who will have to be soon as well as customers who need to return prematurely or be repatriated to their country of residence can contact our Emergency Call Centre around the clock.
Tel. +41 58 340 16 11

Emergency psychological support

For psychological support in the event of financial or social emergencies, you can make use of our free emergency psychological assistance.
Tel. +41 58 340 16 11

FOPH coronavirus infoline

The FOPH coronavirus infoline can be reached around the clock.
Tel. +41 58 463 00 00 

Important and current information can also be found on the website of the FOPH.

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