COVID-19 - get tested
Along with vaccination and safety and hygiene measures, testing is a fundamental means of controlling COVID-19. Testing can quickly help identify a COVID-19 infection case even when there are no symptoms and to take all necessary précautions to avoid transmission.
When in contact with a COVID-19 case, one can be infected. In order to detect the infection before any symptoms appear, and bearing in mind that one third of people infected with COVID-19 have no symptoms, a test is strongly recommended in case of contact with a confirmed case.
This is why testing is strongly recommended at the start of a contact quarantine - i.e. a quarantine for people who have been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19, within a given institution, for instance an elderly people's home, a business workplace or a school.
Furthermore, a negative test on the seventh day of the quarantine allows the quarantine to be lifted.
In the absence of symptoms and of known exposure to a COVID-19 case
Henceforth, the FOPH recommends personalised testing with a rapid antigen test or self-test. Referred to as a "comfort test", the rapid antigen test can be carried out, for example, before visiting a vulnerable relative or before taking part in an event involving several people not living in the same household, or for travel, in order to limit the risk of transmission.
The self-test was designed to be used at home and in the absence of symptoms, in order to be able to test oneself regularly before or after a family or friends meeting, or an activity gathering several people not living in the same household.
As of June 26, 2021, it will also be possible to buy self-tests in drugstores and retail outlets (not reimbursed by the Confederation).
Moreover, since 15th March 2021, the Confederation has implemented a new testing strategy that also promotes the screening of asymptomatic persons without any known contact with COVID-19. It involves mainly targeted and repetitve testing in professional and educational settings, as well as comfort testing. This strategic shift that requires enormous logistics, collaboration and coordination. Its implementation in the canton is progressive since 22nd March 2021.
- 90% of COVID-19 cases occur within 7 days of the last contact with a positive person.
- 1/3 of people infected with COVID-19 are asymptomatic but can transmit the virus.
- During the imposed quarantine period following a contact with someone who is infected with COVID-19, 1 in 5 people become positive.
You will find in this section all the information you need to get tested :
2. When should one get tested ?
Testing of symptomatic persons remains essential and is recommended at the slightest suspicion.
Likewise, testing of symptomless persons who have been exposed to a COVID-19 positive person is strongly recommended, for example during an outbreak in a school or an elderly nursing home, or during quarantine following close contact, and this would also include children.
The new approach is to recommend testing of symptomless persons, in the form of targeted and repetitive testing in the workplace or of individual "comfort" tests.
There are chances that you have contracted a coronavirus infection if you have at least one of the following symptoms:
- Acute respiratory problems (coughing, sore throat, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain);
- Sudden loss of the sense of smell or taste;
- Muscle aches, headaches, general fatigue, common cold, gastrointestinal symptoms (e.g. nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain), skin rashes;
- Acute confused state in an elderly person;
- Deterioration in the general condition of an elderly person due to no known cause.
A test is recommended from the seventh day of quarantine following close contact with a positive person or after returning from a trip to a risk area, even without symptoms. Indeed, one should be aware that one person out of five becomes positive during his/her quarantine and it is important to take prompt action to avoid transmission if the test is positive.
If the test is negative, the quarantine will be lifted. However, a mask will have to be worn outside the home and a distance of 1.5m will have to be maintained until the tenth day of quarantine.
If you are registered with the Swisscovid application, you may receive an alert informing you that you have been in contact with a person who has tested positive, and recommending that you get tested.
When several people are infected in the same establishment (a company, a school, an old folks' home, etc.), the SMC can recommend an extended screening in the establishment in order to diagnose an infection, even if there are no symptoms, so as to quickly take all necessary précautions.
In accordance with the intention of the Federal Council, the canton of Geneva is preparing to introduce repeated screening in professional settings. Particular attention will be paid to sectors that present a high risk of transmission (places or events where many people are in contact) and/or vulnerability (places where many people vulnerable to COVID-19 are present), where the epidemiological value of such screening is therefore proven. Repeated screening is therefore particularly recommended in institutions where vulnerable people are present, such as nursing homes for the elderly.
A model of protection plan including repetitive screening is available on our website (link). Interested parties can submit their protection plan proposal to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Once the plan has been endorsed by the Cantonal Doctor's Office (SMC), it can be implemented.
More information available in this FOPH document (in French).
From now on, the FOPH recommends personalised screening with a rapid antigen test or a self-test, depending on the situation. Known as a "comfort test", this type of test can be done, for example, before visiting a vulnerable relative or before taking part in an event involving several people not living in the same household, in order to limit the risk of transmission. If you want to meet vulnerable people, you should use the rapid antigen test.
Rapid antigen tests are reimbursed by the Confederation at a rate of 1 test/day per person.
Self-tests are available free of charge in Geneva pharmacies for people who have not been vaccinated and who have not been ill with Covid-19 in the last 6 months, upon presentation of an insurance card. For people who do not have health insurance, self-tests are also available. Such tests are limited to 5 self-tests per 30-day period and per person.
Some airlines or countries require a negative COVID-19 test in order to board and land in the country. PCR tests are recommended ; however for some countries rapid tests are sufficient. Check the requirements of your airline or country of destination.
3. What type of test and for what situation?
The recommended kind of test , be it PCR or a rapid test, depends on the degree of vulnerability of the person concerned by the test and his or her risk of exposure to the virus.
As a general rule :
The PCR test, recognised as the most reliable, is always recommended primarily for symptomatic individuals who are vulnerable and/or who are caregivers in direct contact with patients and/or who have had symptoms for more than 4 days. They are also recommended for children exposed to COVID-19, as rapid antigen tests are not as accurate in this population group.
For other indications, however, the use of rapid antigen tests is recommended. They have the advantage of being easier to access as they do not require laboratory analysis and, above all, they give an immediate result (15-20 minutes). Sometimes a positive rapid test will still need to be corroborated by a PCR test.
Professionals who perform the tests will advise you on which kind of test is recommended for your situation. The chart hereunder (in French) provides indications on the testing strategy.
PCR tests are the most reliable but only give a result within 24 hours as they require laboratory analysis. The sample is taken by a professional using a nasopharyngeal swab (cotton swab in the nose), an oropharyngeal swab (cotton swab in the throat) or a saliva swab (saliva sample). The saliva sample can be taken by the patient and then sent for analysis.
Antigenic or rapid tests have the benefit of providing a result within 15-20 minutes but are less accurate. They are recommended for broad screening in low-risk settings because they are easily accessible and do not require laboratory analysis. Sampling is carried out by a professional by means of a nasopharyngeal swab (cotton swab at the back of the nose) or an oropharyngeal swab (cotton swab in the throat). Antigenic tests with nasal sampling (cotton swab in the nostrils) will soon be available.
To simplify targeted and repetitive testing in a professional setting, the FOPH also recommends "pooled" PCR tests - i.e. tests carried out on the basis of personalised samples (nasopharyngeal, oropharyngeal or salivary) but analysed by grouping several samples. If one of the tested groups is positive, the samples from each member of the group are then analysed individually to identify the positive person or persons. This technique allows for regular testing of a large population group while reducing constraints and costs.
Intended to limit the transmission of the coronavirus in the environment of the person who uses it, the self-test is done at home. It is recommended for people without symptoms, and who have not had contact with COVID-19 cases, who want to visit a relative who isn't a vulnerable person or to take part in an event involving several people not living in the same household.
The self-test isn't recommended if:
- you have coronavirus symptoms
- you have had contact with someone who was tested positive
- you are in quarantine
- you intend to visit vulnerable people
- you are entering Switzerland and need a negative result for this.
Self-tests are available free of charge in Geneva drugstores when you present your insurance card. The maximum number of self-tests per person is 5 over a period of 30 days.
More information on the FOPH website
4. Where can one be tested in Geneva ?
You can choose a location for a test with no medical consultation by clicking on the map hereafter.
5. Covering the costs of the screening test
Illustration of the billing flow can be viewed in the graph below (in French): :
The cost coverage of tests for persons who do not reside in Switzerland and who do not have access to LAMal insurance is ensured by the joint LAMal institution.
For more information regarding namely the reimbursement for tests undertaken within the framework of column 2, please refer to the FOPH document on the FOPH website (in French, German and Italian).
6. Tests and new variants
The identification of new strains of the virus can only be carried out using a PCR test.
Screening for new strains of the coronavirus cannot sytematically be undertaken for each positive test. The presence of new strains within the canton of Geneva is nevertheless monitored thanks to analyses which are regularly performed by the Geneva University Hospitals' virology laboratory.
In the event of an infection with new strains of the coronavirus, the measures taken to avoid transmission (isolation and quarantine) do not vary.