Coronavirus: Why are Swiss residents going to France to get tested?

Coronavirus: Why are Swiss residents going to France to get tested?
Residents of Geneva get tested in France to save money. Photo by Valery Hache / AFP
As PCR tests are cheaper in France, people from the Swiss canton of Geneva are heading over the border to get the nasal swab. A third of those tested in French border centres are from Switzerland.

This is putting a new spin on the old ‘shopping across the border’ phenomenon: instead (or maybe in addition to) stocking up on groceries, Genevans have been going neighbouring regions of France to save money on coronavirus testing.

The same procedure that costs between 100 and 200 francs if given to people without symptoms in Switzerland, costs 70 euros (just over 77 francs) for non-residents in France, according to a report by RTS public broadcaster. Testing for all purposes is completely free to people registered in the French health system.

Any resident of Switzerland who lives within 30 kilometres of a French testing site — which many Geneva and Vaud residents do — can hop over to France for the test.

People from Switzerland represent about a third of test customers in border-area laboratories.

“I live five minutes from the border”, a woman from the Meyrin section of Geneva told RTS.  “I already buy my meat for half the price in France, so why not a PCR test if it saves me money?”

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Geneva authorities say they are aware of the cross-border testing tourism but they see no problem as long as all the positive cases are reported in Switzerland.

This trend may end or at least slow down as Switzerland announced last week its plan to give each resident five free coronavirus tests per month starting in mid-March. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How will Switzerland’s free coronavirus ‘self-testing’ scheme work?

And earlier this year, Switzerland has introduced a free nationwide coronavirus testing programme for people without symptoms in an effort to prevent large-scale outbreaks. 

From January 28th, “the federal government pays for persons without symptoms to be tested so that those who are particularly vulnerable can be better protected and local outbreaks of infection can be contained early on”, authorities said.

However, anyone who needs a test to travel abroad, or be able to come out of the quarantine early, will still have to pay the cost themselves.

 READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How does Switzerland’s mass testing scheme work?

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