The Swiss government has agreed to foot the bill for medical tests for coronavirus infections to encourage the population to participate in prevention efforts.
Interior Minister Alain Berset said the government would take over the costs for an average of 8,000 tests daily for a total of about CHF290 million ($307 million) this year.
“Cost must not be hurdle for anybody,” he told a news conference on Wednesday.
Berset stressed the importance of testing as part of the policy to respect hygiene rules, including keeping a 1.5-metere distance from other people and tracking of cases of infections.
He added that it is key to seek a test even in cases of light symptoms.
It is currently possible to test about 15,000 people daily or even more, if necessary, both to find out if somebody has the been infected or not, but also for virus anti-bodies, according to Stefan Kuster of the Federal Health Office.
The tests cost CHF169 and CHF113 respectively.
The government decision takes effect on Thursday and is aimed at ending a dispute between the cantonal authorities and the health insurance companies.
Berset also announced that a tracing programme will be available to the public across Switzerland as of Thursday.
He called for a widespread use of a smartphone application, known as SwissCovid, to complement the conventional tracking of infections by the cantonal authorities.
“It is key that a maximum of people download the app but its use remains voluntary,” Berset explained.
Parliament earlier this month agreed the legal basis for the use of the app amid concerns about data protection. It follows a technical trial phase of several weeks.
The app uses Bluetooth waves to allow smartphones to communicate with each other anonymously, allowing app stores users to be notified if they came into contact with infected people.