Why should I get tested at my workplace?

Companies that test regularly benefit from not having to quarantine: employees can continue to work despite close contact with a person who tested positive. The tests are free for companies as well as schools.

Roughly 0.1 to 0.2 per cent of the population are infected with the coronavirus without being aware of it (asymptomatic carriers). These carriers can spread the virus for a long time without realising it.

It’s therefore important to identify infected persons quickly and reliably through repeated testing. Together with the applicable hygiene and social distancing rules, contact tracing and vaccination, repeat testing provides the basis for containing and monitoring the coronavirus. Repeat testing in companies ensures the safety of both employees and customers.

How much does it cost to participate?

The costs of testing are borne by the canton and the federal government. Only bespoke solutions (e.g. express reverse logistics, external pooling staff or courier collection at specific times) must be paid for by the company itself.

How often is testing carried out?

The FOPH recommends that repetitive testing be carried out at least once a week (every 5-8 days).

What kind of test is carried out?

In order to ensure the whole process is as efficient as possible, PCR saliva tests are being used. These are extremely simple and safe to perform and can be carried out independently without expert assistance and without any pain. Furthermore, transportation is straightforward and participants can take their own samples independently within around two minutes.

Which companies can participate?

Participation is open to companies with:

  • Company headquarters (head office or branch office) in the canton (if the relevant canton approves repetitive testing).
  •  A minimum of four employees (branch) must be able to take part in the repetitive testing regularly.

In principle, it is necessary to implement the respective cantonal concept for each location of a nationally active company. There is an exception for companies with more than 500 employees throughout Switzerland: These companies can introduce the cantonal test concept of the head office at all locations (in consultation with the head office canton). If the cantonal concept of the head office canton is not suitable, the company can introduce the cantonal concept of the canton of another branch; with the consent of the canton whose concept is to be applied to all locations. Large companies can turn to the FOPH for support (email BAG).

«Pooling» – what's that?

With «pooling» a maximum number of ten samples from individual persons are combined into a single one using a large beaker. This «pool» is transferred to a sampling tube («pool sample») and sent in to the lab for analysis.

This pooling method allows significantly more samples from persons taking part to be analysed at the laboratory in the same period.

How does the company/school testing work?

The overall testing process involves the following:

  1. The canton records the company’s or school’s registration.
  2. The company/school registers for company testing on the TOGETHER WE TEST website. The company/school designates internal pool managers and enters their details on TOGETHER WE TEST. Here, data protection is guaranteed at all times.
  3.  The pool managers order the required test material via the website. Please note that the delivery of the material can take up to one week.
  4. The number of pool test kits ordered are sent in the mail to the company/school or to the address entered by the person responsible for pool management.
  5. Employees get their kits for the saliva test from the pool managers and carry out the test themselves either at home or at work at a designated test point. In schools, the test material is handed out to pupils taking part in the testing and the saliva samples are handed in directly in class.
  6. On the weekday specified by those organising the testing, the employees or pupils hand in their saliva samples (taken as recently as possible) at the collection points or to the pool manager.
  7. The pool manager creates the pool sample by merging a maximum of ten saliva samples in each case. They compile a pooling list, pack up the pool samples, and send them on to the relevant laboratory.
  8. The pool samples are transported to the lab via the most convenient means of transport and are then analysed. Once the samples have arrived at the lab, the result is generally available within 24 hours.
  9. The pool manager is informed of the result. In case of a negative pool test, the pool manager notifies participants according to the pooling list. In the case of a positive result, increased protective measures must be taken by the members of the relevant pool (FFP2 masks, no participation in meetings, no customer contact). These employees or pupils must carry out an individual Covid test immediately at a Covid test centre or on site if testing can be done within the company or school. The result of these tests is communicated to the employees or pupils directly by the lab.
  10.  In case of a positive individual test, employees must self-isolate. They will be contacted by the cantonal contact tracing body and informed about how to proceed.
  11. With a negative test result, employees can resume working, maintaining the existing protective or hygiene measures.
  12. The pool managers will organise the next test for employees within five to eight days.

What do participating companies need to do?

The aim of repetitive testing is to test a significant proportion of the population regularly and in a targeted manner. The participating companies must register, inform their workforces and motivate them to ensure the broadest possible participation (voluntary for employees). For the on-site organisation, the company must designate pool managers, who will then provide the material, merge the individual samples to create pool samples and coordinate delivery to the lab. The canton will provide materials (flyers, posters, video, website) for the purposes of internal communication.

What are the tasks for participating schools?

The aim of repetitive testing is to test a significant proportion of the population regularly and in a targeted manner. The participating schools must register with the canton in which they are located, inform their pupils and their parents/guardians, and motivate them so as many as possible agree to participate. Participation is voluntary for pupils. For the on-site organisation, the company must designate pool managers, who will then provide the material, merge the individual samples to create pool samples and coordinate delivery to the lab. The canton will provide materials (flyers, posters, video, website) for the purposes of internal communication.

Can people stop wearing their masks if testing is in place?

No, masks are still required even if people are regularly or individually tested. A mask must be worn whenever more than one person is present in a room – even if is possible to maintain social distancing (e.g. in open-plan offices).

Should people who have been vaccinated also be tested?

Fully vaccinated persons* may be tested if they wish. Vaccination does not affect the test result (no false positives).

(*two vaccinations or one if they have contracted Covid) 

Should employees who have already had the coronavirus also get tested?

People who have had COVID-19 should wait until six months after the onset of the disease before they get tested. This is because the tests can still come back positive for six months.

What happens if a pool tests positive?

If a pool tests positive, the participants in this pool must take enhanced safety measures (strictly observe distancing and hygiene regulations, no participation in group meetings, no customer contact; in schools, distance learning or individual work wherever possible) and should take an individual PCR test by way of confirmation as quickly as possible. The pupils not affected by the positive pool can continue to participate in classes on site provided that the current guidelines for the canton permit classroom learning. The current protective measures applicable for the canton remain in place.

The result of the confirmation test is communicated to the colleague or pupil directly by the lab. Neither the company nor the TOGETHER WE TEST platform knows the individual test result.

Are employees able to continue working or pupils able to continue attending classes while they wait for confirmation of the result of a positive pool?

Companies: As a general rule, yes – provided they comply with the protective and hygiene measures. This is always assuming that the employees do not show any symptoms.

Schools: Until the results of the confirmation tests are available, pupils from the positive pool are advised to opt for distance learning.

When is a PCR saliva test the right choice?

A PCR saliva test detects a coronavirus infection, even if someone has become infected only recently. As a weekly test, it offers the highest level of safety and is used to contain and monitor the coronavirus in companies and schools.

When is a rapid antigen test the right choice?

A rapid antigen test provides less reliable results than a PCR test. The test works most effectively with high viral loads. It may not always detect COVID-19 infections in people with a low viral load – which happens either because they have been infected very recently or are nearing the end of the illness. A rapid antigen test is therefore particularly suitable for specific situations, such as events, to increase safety. It can also be used if companies want to test their employees regularly. It’s important to know that in these circumstances, medical specialists must carry out the tests. Positive rapid antigen tests also have to be confirmed by a PCR test.