The range of different tests and their availability is evolving constantly. To protect members of the public and systematically manage the epidemic, the use of testing must be examined carefully. From 2 November 2020, in addition to PCR tests, it will be possible to use rapid antigen tests to diagnose infection with the new coronavirus. These tests will be introduced in the different cantons step by step, and will be increasingly available in the next few weeks. Below you will find an overview of the different types of test.
The PCR test determines whether you have an infection with the new coronavirus. It is done with a nose and throat swab or throat swab, and the result is generally available within 24 to 48 hours. The swab is done by your doctor and in hospitals and test centres; the sample is analysed in a licensed lab.
Rapid antigen test
On 28 October 2020 the Swiss Federal Council decided that as of 2 November 2020, in addition to PCR tests it would be possible to conduct rapid antigen tests all over Switzerland, also outside licensed laboratories. Rapid antigen tests yield a result within 15 to 20 minutes. Introducing them will make it easier to access testing and allow more people to be tested. This will enable more positive cases to be detected, allowing the people affected to go into isolation more quickly. Like PCR tests, rapid antigen tests determine whether you are infected with the new coronavirus. The test is done by staff specifically trained for this purpose by means of a nose and throat swab. In addition to medical practices, hospitals and test centres, rapid antigen tests can also be carried out in pharmacies. The availability of rapid antigen tests will increase steadily, although it will be limited in the introductory phase. Rapid antigen tests yield a less reliable result than PCR tests. Even so, given the fact that PCT testing capacity is currently limited, the FOPH believes it makes sense to use rapid antigen tests. This is because significantly more people can be tested and go into isolation if the result is positive.
A rapid antigen test is a possible option if you have symptoms of the new coronavirus and meet all the following criteria:
- Your symptoms started fewer than 4 days ago.
- You are not in a vulnerable group.
- You do not work in healthcare with direct patient contact.
- You are being treated on an outpatient basis.
A rapid antigen test can be considered in the following situations if you do not have symptoms of the new coronavirus:
- You receive a notification from the SwissCovid App that you’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive.
- Your doctor or the cantonal office responsible orders a rapid test because you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive.
The following applies to all types of test: Please consult your doctor if you have had a negative test result and:
- your symptoms worsen or you get additional symptoms of the new coronavirus.
- your symptoms persist for more than 2 days after testing and do not improve.
- you find out that during the 14 days before your symptoms started you were in contact with someone who tested positive.
Serological tests are used to detect antibodies, for example antibodies against the new coronavirus, in the blood. Antibodies indicate that the tested person has been in contact with the virus.
It is currently unclear whether people who have developed antibodies are protected from renewed infection. It is also possible for this type of test to show antibodies even though none are there. This gives the person tested a false sense of security. We therefore do not currently recommend this type of test.