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.



    Theses pages are translated by a robot


    2. Behaviour and hygiene rules and masks

    • Observe the rules of hand and respiratory hygiene.
    • Maintain a distance of 1.5 metres from other people.
    • Wearing a mask is compulsory in all enclosed spaces accessible to the public (Swiss public transport and waiting areas, retail and supermarkets, administration, post office, bank, etc.).
    • Wearing a mask is obligatory during gatherings (max. 5 people) in the public space when the interpersonal distance of 1.5 metres cannot be respected.
    • Limiting contacts
    • Stay at home if you have symptoms.
    • Always call before going to the doctor or an emergency service. 

    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. Why, when and where can one be tested?

    Screening centres - Opening hours during the holiday period

    Screening centers in Geneva

    Adult screening centres (PCR and rapid antigenic test)

    Screening centres for children under 16 years  (PCR and rapid antigenic test)

    Rapid antigenic tests (only rapid antigenic test)

    When should one get tested ?

    1. You have symptoms

    it is strongly recommended to undergo a screening test as soon as :

    • you present any acute respiratory symptoms (coughing, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain)
    • you have fever
    • a sudden loss of smell or taste
    • you present muscle pain, headache, general feeling of tiredness, colds, gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain), skin rashes.
    • old-aged persons with an acute confused state of mind
    • old-aged-personns with deterioration of the general condition without any other cause

    Before doing a screening, you can also choose to assess your risk level by doing a HUG Coronarisk test.


    Do the Coronarisk test.

    2. You have received a notification via the Swisscovid application regarding exposure to a COVID-19 case

    A test is indicated 5 days after this notification. It can be carried out in one of the screening centres in the canton.

    3. The cantonal doctor's office has asked you to be tested

    A test can be carried out in one of the screening centres in the canton.

    4. You are going on a trip and a test is required on arrival in the country of destination

    Travel certificates currently require proof of a negative RT-PCR test.

    A quick test does not seem to be enough. Pre-travel screening can be carried out in one of the screening centres in the canton.

    5. Your employer has requested that you be tested.

    A test (PCR or rapid test) is not indicated

    A test (PCR or rapid test) is not indicated in the following situations:

    • At the request of your employer when you have no symptoms.
    • To shorten the duration of your quarantine.
    Even if your test is negative, you will have to stay at home until the end of the quarantine period.


    Which tests ?

     Since November 2, 2020, rapid antigenic tests have been offered according to the following criteria:

    • You have had symptoms for less than 4 days (test as soon as possible after the onset of symptoms).
    • AND you are not a high risk person
    • AND you do not work in the health sector in direct contact with patients

    Rapid antigenic tests are gradually being introduced in the canton and their availability will increase in the coming days. They can be carried out in public pharmacies.

    What is a rapid antigenic test?A rapid antigenic screening test can tell if you are infected. The sample is taken in the same way as for PCR tests (nasopharyngeal swab). The result is obtained in 15 to 20 minutes.

    Antigenic tests can be carried out at various screening centres in the canton.

    why to get tested ?

    The purpose of screening is to :

    1. Rapidly isolate any sick person to prevent him/her from infecting others.
    2. Quarantine people with whom a sick person may have had close contact and who may have been infected.


    Cost coverage of the screening test

    Since 25 June 2020, the Confederation pays the costs of COVID-19 analyses for people who consult one of the above-mentioned sites.

    A person must  :

    • be part of indicated people (corresponding to criteria 1,2 or 3 of When to get tested)
    • be insured in Switzerland.

    Coverage is therefore free of charge for persons who meet these criteria.

    On the other hand, the cost of screening for travel reasons and for most asymptomatic persons remains at their expense or at the expense of the employer if the employer requests the analysis.

    If further tests or swabs are required based on the clinical condition, the health professional must inform the person. In this case, the additional costs are covered by the health insurance, accident insurance or military insurance, as the case may be.

    4. Isolation and quarantine

    In order to prevent the unimpeded 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 contact with a Covid-19 positif person.

    Infected people can become contagious before they develop symptoms.


    Memento for positive persons and persons in quarantine after close contact with a positive person

    • Positive persons will only receive text messages by SMS.
    • These people will have to put themselves immediately in isolation or quarantine.
    • They will then be asked to fill in a form concerning the people with whom they have been in close contact during the past 48 hours.
    • Finally, they will receive a personal isolation or quarantine decision from the cantonal doctor's service.

    People waiting to be tested

    As soon as you present symptoms and have made an appointment to take the test :

    • go into isolation while waiting for the test
    • start preparing a list of the people you have been in close contact with during the past 48 hours.

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

    People waiting for their results

    As soon as you have taken the test :

    • place yourself in isolation while awaiting the result
    • draw up a list of the people with whom you have been in close contact during the past 48 hours. 

    If your situation allows, it is recommended that you inform your family and other people you have been in close contact with that you have symptoms, that you have taken the test and are waiting for the result.

    Positive people

    As soon as you receive the result by SMS:

    • omply with the instructions (transmitted by SMS) of the investigation unit
    • maintain your isolation.

    You will probably not be contacted by phone but you will receive a new SMS at the end of your isolation.

    Close contacts

    As soon as you receive the SMS informing you that you have been in close contact with a person who has tested positive :

    • comply with the instructions (sent by SMS) of the investigation unit
    • immediately go into quarantine.

    You will probably not be contacted by phone but you will receive a new SMS at the end of your quarantine.



    During your isolation or quarantine, the COVICOACH website has been designed to provide useful tips and information in order to make your daily life easier


    Further information available on the FOPH website :


    5. High risk population groups


    Who are the high risk population groups?

    High risk population groups include:

    • Persons aged 65 years+
    • 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
    • People with significant obesity (BMI equal to or over 40, i.e. 40kg/m2)
    • Pregnant women.

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

    Vulnerable 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.

    Recommendations for high risk population groups

    Lifting of measures as of 22 June 2020

    • Instructions for the protection of vulnerable persons are lifted, as is the recommendation for them to carry out teleworking from home.
    • Vulnerable persons can therefore return to their workplace. However, employers are obliged to take appropriate measures to protect the health of their employees in accordance with the labour law.
    • Security distances are now set at 1.5 metres. If this is not possible, a mask must be worn in accordance with safe handling practices.


    Easing of measures as of 11 May 2020

    • You can leave your home again if you closely observe all rules of hygiene and conduct.
    • Strictly respect the physical social distances of 2 metres; if that otherwise impossible, put on a mask using careful handling practices.
    • Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly. Strict hand hygiene is applied before and after all physical contact. When travelling, take a hydro-alcoholic solution with you and use it to clean your hands regularly.
    • Avoid crowded areas (e.g. railway stations, public transport) and rush hours (e.g. Saturday shopping, public transport commuter traffic).
    • If possible, ask your friends or neighbours to do your shopping for you or place an order on the internet or by phone. You can also be assisted by various organisations, in your municipality or via the Internet.
    • Handle your business and private appointments by phone, Skype or similar means of communication.
    • If you have to go to the doctor, go by car, bike or on foot. If this is not possible, take a taxi. Keep a distance of at least two metres from other people and observe hygiene rules.
    • If you are working and are vulnerable because of a pre-existing medical condition, your employer must protect you.
    • If you have one or more symptoms such as a cough (usually dry), a sore throat, difficulty breathing, fever, muscle pain or sudden loss of smell and/or taste, call your doctor or a hospital immediately. Even on weekends. Describe your symptoms and point out that you are a vulnerable person.

    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. 

    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.
    • 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.
    • 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 2 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, 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.



    6. Children and COVID-19

    Available data show that children can be infected with the new coronavirus. However, up to the age of about 12 years, they are less often symptomatic than older children or adults, and and are less prone to transmitting the virus to others. Therefore, in mose cases, a test is not necessary. The indication for a test is assessed by the paediatrician in accordance with the specific recommendations of the FOPH ; it may also be recommended by the cantonal doctor's service.

    My child is sick

    Criteria for staying at home or going to school, nursery or day care, for children under 12 years of age

    Consult the decisional algorithm (available in French only). This procedure is intended for supervisors and parents of children aged under 12 years old, who are taken care of in an Early Childhood Care Structure (SAPE), in a Family Day Care Centre or who attend school.

    Screening centres in Geneva for children (under 16 years old)

    Parents of children under the age of 16 are advised to contact their child's paediatrician first. Before the age of 12, a medical consultation is in any case necessary and many paediatricians take their patients directly to the practice.


    See more

    Children with symptoms and possible infection

    7. Fact-checking : 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.



    This fact-checking list is regularly updated.

    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!


    8. 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