COVID-19 - How to protect yourself and others

1. Overview

Any questions about COVID-19? Here you will find all information on protection, testing, quarantine and isolation.

If you do not find the answer to your question, please contact the Hotline : 0800 909 400
Open everyday from 9am to 5pm.



    2. Behaviour and hygiene rules and masks

    What must one do to limit the circulation of the virus?

    • Wear a mask in crowded areas of urban centres or villages with heavy pedestrian traffic and other public areas, whenever the concentration of people present does not allow the prescribed security distances to be observed.
    • Masks must be worn in enclosed spaces, including vehicles where more than one person is present.
    •  Fully vaccinated persons may dispense with the personal distance requirement and with the obligation to wear a mask in private meetings with other fully vaccinated persons. 
    • Ventilate closed areas several times a day, especially in rooms where there are people from different households (at least once an hour for 5-10 minutes). When temperatures are warmer, it is a good idea to leave the windows open longer. Always open the windows wide to create a draught.

    General rules of hygiene

    • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based solution.

    A hydro-alcoholic solution must be available at the entrance to shops and establishments open to the public. Customers must use it before entering.

    • No handshakes and hugging and keep at a sufficient distance (1.5 metres) from your interlocutors.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
    • Cough and sneeze into a paper tissue.
    • After use, throw the paper tissue in a trashcan and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, or an alcohol-based solution.
    • Cough and sneeze into the crook of your elbow if you don't have a paper tissue.
    • Air your rooms several times a day. Regular ventilation reduces the risk of virus transmission indoors. Distance, wearing a mask and hygiene rules remain the most effective measures.


    Safety masks

    The mask provides a physical barrier. The interpersonal distance of 1.5 metres combined with regular hand washing increases the effectiveness of the mask.

    When to use a mask

    More information : Types of masks (FOPH)


    Masks FAQ

    Should children wear masks?

     Wearing a mask is required for children aged over 12 years in all places where it is compulsory (public transport, shops, etc.).


    Can we use a mask more than once or should we throw it away?

    A hygiene mask can be reused. In routine activities (public transport, shops), once removed, the mask can be held in your hand or worn on the forearm (with the outside face out). It can then be put on again, always applying the precautionary measures.

    If you do not plan to reuse your mask quickly, it can be folded on the outside surface and then put aside in a pocket or bag, a clean envelope or paper bag. Plastic bags are not suitable for storing a mask because they do not allow air to pass through, so masks cannot dry out. Also, viruses survive longer on plastic than on paper. The important thing is to always handle it after having disinfected your hands well and not touching the outside surface at any time.

    If it is to be used later, it is best to hang your mask on a hook after use so that it does not touch any other objects.


    When must we imperatively change a mask?

    A throwable mask can be thrown away after a day's use.


    Are masks washable?

    Hygiene masks cannot be washed. Fabric masks must be washed according to the manufacturer's instructions.


    What frequency must a fabric mask be washed?

    It is necessary to refer to the manufacturer's instructions. The mask should be washed at least after one day of use, at more than 60 degrees. Depending on the model, it is estimated that the mask can be washed between 5 and 20 times without losing any of its qualities.


    Can we throw out used masks anywhere?

    Used masks must be thrown in a dustbin, if possible closed.


    Can we wear reusable fabric masks?

    Yes, it is recommended that you purchase a Swiss TESTEX standard mask. The mask must bear the TESTEX Community Mask label.


    Can we use plexiglass visors?

    Visors cannot replace a mask. They protect the eyes from droplet contamination, but do not guarantee protection from infection through the mouth or nose. They can therefore only be used as a supplement to a mask.


    Are certain people exempt from wearing a mask?

    Certain persons may be exempted for medical reasons (certificate required). They must behave in an exemplary manner and be able to present their medical certificate in the event of an inspection. In such situations, masks may be replaced by a face shield.



    Cleaning products and disinfectants

    Commonly used cleaning products and disinfectants are effective against the COVID-19 virus.

    Frequently touched surfaces are most likely to be contaminated.

    It is therefore important to regularly clean surfaces and handled objects  with a common household cleaning product. It is also important to regularly wash your hands with soap and water or a hydroalcoholic solution after touching potentially contaminated surfaces and to avoid touching your eyes, mouth or nose.


    Further information

    FOPH website New coronavirus: Protect yourself and others

    3. Isolation and quarantine

    In order to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 disease, it is necessary to act responsibly :

    1. Isolation when you are suffering from an illness that might be caused by the coronavirus, whether you've been tested or not.
    2. Quarantine when you have been in close and non protected contact with a Covid-19 infected person.

    Infected people can become contagious before they develop symptoms.

    FOPH recommendations and FAQ on isolation and quarantine


    You have been tested positive for COVID-19

    You will receive text messages from the Cantonal Doctor's Office to guide you through the steps to follow.

    • You must immediately go into isolation.
    • You will be contacted by the Cantonal Doctor's Office.
    • You will receive a link to an online questionnaire to list the people you have been in close contact with during the past 48 hours before the onset of your symptoms.
    • You will receive an personalised isolation decision from the Cantonal Doctor's Office.
    • You will receive a new text message at the end of your isolation period.

    FOPH Instructions on isolation


    You have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19

    You will receive text messages from the Cantonal Doctor's Office to guide you through the steps to follow.

    • You must quarantine yourself immediately.
    • You will receive an personalised quarantine decision from the Cantonal Doctor's Office.
    • You will be invited to get tested as of the 7th day of your quarantine. 
    • You will receive a new text message at the end of your quarantine period.

    FOPH Instructions on quarantine

    You are waiting to get tested and then waiting for your test results

    As soon as you have symptoms and have made an appointment for a screening test:

    • You must place yourself in isolation while waiting for the test and while waiting for the test results.
    • You should start preparing a list of the people you have been in close contact with during the past 48 hours.

    If your situation allows it, it is recommended that you inform your relatives and other people with whom you have been in close contact that you have symptoms and that you are waiting to be tested.

    Test results

    • A negative test result

    You took the test because you had symptoms and you are not under quarantine. If your test is negative, you must stay home and may leave your home when you have been without symptoms for at least one day (24 hours).  If you are away from work for 24 hours, you do not need a medical certificate.  If you are away from work for a longer period of time, contact your doctor for a medical certificate.

    If this test was done before the 7th day of quarantine, and the test is negative, you must pursue your quarantine.

    If this test has been carried out as of the 7th day of your quarantine, if you do not present any symptoms, and this test is negative, your quarantine may be lifted. You can leave your home, but you must wear a mask at all times and keep a distance of 1.5 m from anyone you meet. This until the date of the end of your quarantine.


    • A positive test result

    See the above listed paragraph: You have been tested positive


    Contact Quarantine Exemption

    • Vaccination 

    Vaccinated persons are exempt from quarantine following close contact with a confirmed case of SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) for 12 months from the day the vaccination was fully completed. 

    • Cured COVID-19

    Persons cured of COVID-19 are exempt from quarantine following close contact with a confirmed case of SARS-Cov-2 (COVID-19) for a period of 6 months from the end of isolation.




    The COVICOACH website has been designed to provide useful tips and information in order to make your daily life easier during your isolation or quarantine period.


    Further information available on the FOPH website :


    4. High risk population groups


    Who are the high risk population groups?

    High risk population groups include:

    • Pregnant women
    • Persons aged 65 years+
    • People with the following conditions or genetic abnormalities who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons:
      • People of all ages suffering from diseases such as cancer, diabetes, immune weakness due to disease or therapy, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, liver cirrhosis, kidney failure
      • People with significant obesity (BMI equal to or over 30-35 kg/m2)
      • People with Downs syndrome.
    When you are fully vaccinated or have had a coronavirus infection, you are no longer considered a vulnerable person. In this case, specific protective measures in the workplace are no longer necessary. 


    High risk people can develop a serious form of the disease and must be protected. If you are not sure whether you are a vulnerable person or not, please contact your doctor.

    For more detailed information, check the FOPH website and document Categories of persons at high risk and the COVID-19 federal ordonnance 2.


    Recommendations for persons in contact with high risk population group members

    By maintaining a greater social distance, by temporarily accepting to change one's habits and by being particularly careful, we limit the risk of exposing others, especially high risk persons, the elderly and persons suffering from one or more chronic diseases.

    • Establish a safe social distance with vulnerable people while keeping contact through other means (telephone, etc.).
    • Follow hygiene and behaviour recommendations in a meticulous manner (no handshaking, no kissing, regular handwashing, etc.).
    • When possible, postpone all family events.
    • If you are symptomatic, postpone all visits to high risk persons. 
    • Get vaccinated so as to protect yourself and your family.
    • A self-test before each visit in the absence of symptoms.

    You are a caregiver looking after a vulnerable person

    The new coronavirus is particularly dangerous for people aged over 65 and those already suffering from certain illnesses. If you are looking after a dependent vulnerable person or sharing a household, your task is very valuable in these circumstances. You must however protect yourself as well as the cared person.

    Recommendations if you share the household of a vulnerable person you are caring for:

    • If possible, telework.
    • Get vaccinated so as to protect yourself and all the members of your household.
    • Talk to people around you, share how you feel and ask for help and support, especially younger people who are familiar with the new social media environment.
    1. The Proch'Info hotline 058 317 7000 (Mon to Fri 9:00-12:00 - 14:00 to 17:00) will put you in touch with the institution or association that can  meet your specific needs. 
    2. The Solidarité Urgence sociale hotline 0800 44 77 00 set up by the city of Geneva (7/7 9:00 -17:00) for people who need support or guidance in the field of social benefits, food aid, financial aid or emergency assistance during a health crisis. For people living outside the City of Geneva, please contact your commune.     
    3. If you have any anxieties and need to speak to someone, you may contact 0800 909 400 or the Main tendue (143) or the HUG psychiatric emergencies (022 372 38 62). You can also find information on the website (information in French, German and Italian only).
    • Let other people do your shopping.
    • If your dependent person is receiving home nursing care and assistance, he/she can continue to receive their support. The imad teams and other specialised organisations are trained in all necessary hygiene measures.
    • For other support services such as housekeepers, tradesmen, etc., you might need to assess how urgent the service they provide is. In any case, remember to maintain a distance of at least two metres from other people with whom you are occasionally in contact.

    • If you or the dependent person you are caring for needs to go to the doctor, call first. If you are invited to go to your doctor's office, use your car, walk or take a taxi. Call 144 in case of emergency. Always keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people.


    In case you fall ill while caring for a dependent person living with you or living outside your home:

    • If you fall ill,  you will have to place yourself in self-isolation, even if you have only mild symptoms.

    • Don't forget to prepare a "B plan" in order to identify persons who can replace you in case you are sick.

      The Pro model may help you organize a "plan B" in case of emergency.

      For hospitalized or Covid-19 positive tested care-givers, the EMS Les Erables / Petit-Saconnex retirement home has opened 12 beds to take in and look after asymptomatic dependent persons, in partnership with the Geneva Alzheimer's Association. For more information:  T - 022 730 70 02

    • Prepare a letter with useful information for organizing your replacement. Ideally, write this letter in consultation with the dependent person being cared for. Here are some points you could cover:
    1. What support does the person in care need?
    2. What medicines should the person being cared for take? When should they take them? Where are the medicines available?
    3. Who needs to be contacted?Provide the names and telephone numbers of the most important doctors and other professionals.
    4. What things can the person being cared for do themselves?
    5. Has the cared for person prepared any advance directives or a living will?
    • You can also ask for an Caregiver Emergency Card, (information provided in French only) which allows health and social professionals to identify you as a caregiver of a dependent person and to notify someone who is ready to take over and whose contact information is provided.



    5. Children, school and COVID-19

    Available data to date show that children can be infected with the new coronavirus, although they are less often symptomatic than adults and transmit the virus less.

    Testing children even without symptoms is therefore indicated in all situations where the child has been exposed to a COVID-19 positive person.

    Children with symptoms who may be infected - FOPH guidelines 

    As at the end of the previous school year, COVID-19 screening tests will be offered in the case of an outbreak in secondary school level I during the 2021-2022 school year. For the other grades, parents and pupils will be informed of the occurrence of an outbreak in the classroom and will be invited to take a screening test at a screening centre or with their doctor.

    Preventive measures in schools

    Preventive measures in public and private establishments - 2021-2022 academic year (available in French only)


    Télécharger le document


    Reactive screening in schools

    The Cantonal Doctor's Office has set up a system of reactive screening directly in secondary level I school classes experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19. This screening is voluntary and parental consent is required. The implementation of such screening is decided after a case by case assessment when students in a class test positive and the Cantonal Doctor's Office suspects intra-school transmission.

    Gestion des flambées dans les écoles  (Outbreak management in schools available in French only)

    Formulaire de consentement  (Consent form available in French only)

    FAQs for parents: Schools, sanitary measures and screening - Autumn 2021

    FAQs for young students (high school): Screening measures applied in high school as of autumn 2021

    In Geneva, children can be tested without a prescription at their paediatrician's and in numerous screening centres or medical practices.


    Procedures for teachers and parents

      Comment savoir si mon enfant de moins de 6 ans peut se rendre à la crèche ou à l'école ?  (Can my child under 6 years attend kindergarten or day care available in French only)

    Comment savoir si mon enfant de 6 à 12 ans peut se rendre à l'école ?  (Can my child aged 6-12 years go to school available in French only)



    Vaccination is recommended from the age of 12 by the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the cantonal doctor's office. In the canton of Geneva, children aged 12 to 15 can be vaccinated as of 2nd July 2021.

    Getting vaccinated in Geneva


    6. Fake news : seek information only from official sources

    Messages containing "simple and accessible" recommendations to counter the coronavirus epidemic have been shared thousands of times on Facebook, WhatsApp and by e-mail channels in Switzerland and elsewhere in Europe. A wide majority of these tips and information is based on false or unsubstantiated claims.

    Here is a sample list of these incorrect recommendations or information:

    "Even without symptoms, a person carrying the coronavirus is contagious."


    According to what is knows today, people without symptoms are not the main sources of contamination.

    The disease is spread mainly through respiratory droplets expelled by people who cough. Sick people are most contagious when they are most symptomatic. It is not yet clear whether asymptomatic people infected with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) are contagious or how long they are contagious before symptoms appear.

    "The virus is not heat resistant, it dies if exposed to temperatures of 26-27°C."


    To date, it is not confirmed whether the climate or temperatures have an impact on the spread of the COVID-19 virus. It is also impossible to say that spring or summer heat can literally "kill" a virus. Furthermore, exposing your clothes to the sun to destroy viruses that may have been deposited on them is unnecessary. This also applies to hand dryers, which are ineffective against coronavirus.

    "Hot liquid neutralizes the virus."


    Hot water or the frequency of water consumption has no effect on this virus. There is no need to change the temperature of the water you drink. Drinking water is always important, not just for the coronavirus.

    "The virus survives on inert surfaces for about 6 to 12 hours."


    It is not yet clear how long the COVID-19 virus survives on inert surfaces, but it appears to react like other coronaviruses. Studies (and preliminary information on COVID-19) suggest that coronaviruses can continue to exist on surfaces from up to a few hours to several days. This may depend on different parameters (e.g. surface type, temperature or humidity).

    "Eating more ginger, garlic, pepper, etc. protects against coronavirus."


    While some foods may have virtues for the body, none of them specifically fight against the coronavirus.

    "Because of its large size, the coronavirus can be stopped by any type of mask."


    The Geneva health authorities recommend that medical masks be worn only by health staff members:

    • who examine, treat or advise people with respiratory symptoms (cough and/or fever), without being able to keep at a distance of at least two metres.
    • who examine, treat or advise persons with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, and who cannot keep at a distance of at least two metres.


    FFP2 masks are required only if the presence of COVID-19 is suspected in a patient and if a high level of aerosol formation is expected during a medical procedure (e.g., bronchoscopy, reanimation, open aspiration, non-invasive ventilation).

    Healthy people should not wear medical masks in public.

    "Drinking water and gargling cures COVID-19."


    Salt water can relieve a sore throat, and people are advised to drink water to stay hydrated when they are sick with the flu or the new coronavirus. Drinking does not eliminate the coronavirus in any way.


    "You can contract COVID-19 from a mosquito bite."


    There are no studies to support that the coronavirus can be transmitted by a mosquito bite.

    "Dogs and cats can transmit the coronavirus."


    There is no evidence that pets such as dogs and cats can transmit the coronavirus.

    "Rinsing your nose regularly protects against coronavirus infection."


    There is no evidence that rinsing your nose with a saline solution protects you against coronavirus infection.

    "Coronavirus only affects vulnerable people."

    People of all ages can be infected with the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Elderly people and people with pre-existing conditions (asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease, etc.) seem more likely to become seriously ill from this virus.

    People of all ages are advised to take measures to protect themselves from the virus (social distance of 2m, regular and meticulous hand washing, good respiratory hygiene, etc.).

    "Antibiotics are effective in preventing and treating coronavirus infection."


    Antibiotics do not work against viruses but only against bacteria. Since the new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is a virus, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. However, if you are hospitalized for an infection with CoV-2-CASR, you may receive antibiotics since bacterial co-infection is possible.

    "Chloroquine cures COVID-19."


    To date, there is no drug known to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

    Some treatments are tested in numerous research protocols around the world. Therefore, Chloroquine treatment is currently reserved for patients in hospital settings or as part of a research protocol.


    "Fabric masks are an efficient substitute for surgical masks."


    Fabric masks are by no means a substitute for surgical masks. In fact, surgical masks are the only masks where there is scientific data regarding filtration efficiency and air tightness.

    Fabric masks or other hand-made masks do not provide the bearer with any proven protection against coronavirus.



    The Geneva health authorities warn the population against spreading unfounded rumours that circulate on social networks and the internet. Obtain information only from official sources!


    7. Hotlines COVID-19

    1. Hotline in Geneva
      0800 909 400
    2. Non-vital emergencies in case of symptoms
      022 427 88 00
      7/7 | 24/24.
      Your doctor can also answer your questions.
    3. Vital emergencies
    4. General information on the coronavirus (FOPH)
      058 463 00 00