Coronavirus/COVID-19 - Key Information for our community and guests

Please note that this page will be updated as the situation evolves. 

*Special thank you to IMD, IHEID, GICHD, DCAF, WHO, UNIGE, Canton of Geneva and Swiss Public Health Office for providing key information to compile this document. The information they provide are the official or legal source of information.


Important information for your visit

Wearing a mask remains a rule in the entire GCSP:

  • When the distance between persons is less than 1.5 metres or if the number of people in the room is greater than the permitted occupancy without mask.
  • For all public events.
  • If requested by the organizer.

In all other cases, wearing a mask at the GCSP is voluntary. 

  • All conference rooms at the GCSP can be used to their full capacity if participants wear masks.
  • Outside of the GCSP, the local regulations prevail if they are more restrictive
  • The usual protective measure (social distancing and hand disinfection) are still applicable.



What is the situation in Switzerland and especially in Geneva?

On 30 January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern. On 25 February, the first positive case of the COVID-19 was reported in Ticino, Switzerland. Since then, more than 3 636 221 cases have been detected in Switzerland/Liechtenstein included 211 379 cases and 884 have died in Geneva Canton. Switzerland’s vaccination programme has been under way since January 2021. People aged 12 and over can register for a vaccination.


What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The most recently discovered coronavirus causes coronavirus disease COVID-19. Recently two mutations of COVID 19 have been detected, initially in UK and South Africa but expanding now in a certain number of other countries.

What are the symptoms of the coronavirus COVID-19?

The most frequent symptoms are fever, coughing and respiratory problems. These symptoms can vary in severity. Complications, for example, pneumonia, are also possible. Some people with the disease also have problems with their digestion or their eyes (conjunctivitis). A list of all symptoms of Coronavirus can be found here.


How is it transmitted?

The new coronavirus is transmitted primarily by close and prolonged contact; in other words closer than two metres for more than 15 minutes. The virus spreads by droplet infection: if one person sneezes or coughs, the virus can be transported directly to the mucous membranes in the nose, mouth or eyes of other people.
The virus can also survive outside the body for a few hours in tiny droplets on hands or on surfaces such as handles, doorknobs, lift buttons, etc. It is not yet known whether it is also possible to contract the virus by touching these surfaces or objects and then touching one’s own mouth, nose or eyes.

Who are persons thought to be particularly at risk and needing special protection? 

As per the Swiss government, this includes persons over the age of 65 and those with any of the following pre-existing conditions: cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, diseases or treatments that weaken the immune system, high blood pressure.

How do I get in contact with Swiss authorities if I am concerned?

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health has created a Coronavirus information hotline:
•    For the general public: 058 463 00 00 24 hours a day
•    For traveller’s: 058 464 44 88
•    Geneva Hotline: 0800 909 400 (7/7, 10.00 to 22.00) 

Health insurance and diagnostic test

PCR test

The federal government covers the costs of individual PCR tests in the following cases:

  • You have a test on the basis of symptoms.
  • You have received a notification from the SwissCovid app.
  • You have been instructed by a cantonal authority or a doctor to have a test.

The federal government does not cover the costs of PCR tests in the following cases:

  • You need a negative test result for travel. In this case we recommend that you find out in advance how much it will cost.


Rapid antigen tests

Until 10 October 2021, the federal government will cover all the costs of rapid tests that you have done at a testing centre, at your doctor’s, in a hospital or at a pharmacy. These types of tests are thus also free of charge if you don’t have symptoms of the coronavirus.

From 11 October 2021, the federal government will cover the costs of rapid antigen tests in the following cases:

  • You are experiencing coronavirus symptoms.
  • You have been in close contact with a confirmed case.
  • You are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons. A medical certificate is required.
  • You are under 16 years of age.
  • You are visiting a healthcare institution and require a negative test result. Please note: In this case you will merely receive confirmation of your test result, not a COVID certificate.


Antigen self-tests

Until 30 September 2021, you are entitled to obtain 5 tests every 30 days from pharmacies free of charge in the following cases:

  • You have still not been fully vaccinated.
  • You have still not been infected with the coronavirus.

You can also buy self-test kits in drugstores and retail outlets. You must pay for self-tests that you buy in drugstores or retail outlets yourself.

From 1st October 2021 the federal government will no longer cover the costs of rapid antigen tests. This means that as of this date, you will have to pay for self-testing kits yourself, regardless of whether you have already recovered or been vaccinated. Self-testing kits can be bought from pharmacies, drugstores and retail outlets.


Administrative procedures to obtain a Swiss COVID certificate

According to the official FAQ on the COVID certificate from the Canton of Geneva, People who have been fully vaccinated outside the Schengen area and who live in Switzerland, are staying in Switzerland or intend to visit Switzerland can apply for a Swiss COVID certificate, provided that they have received a vaccine authorised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) abroad. In order to apply for a COVID certificate, persons meeting the above criteria can fill in the COVID Certificates e-démarches application form | These persons will have to provide proof of vaccination, proof of residence in Switzerland and attach an identity document to their application.

What hygiene measures should I take in order to prevent or reduce exposure? (WHO Guidelines)

You can take important steps to protect yourself by practising good hygiene as you normally would to protect against the seasonal flu. Follow the recommendations issued by the FOPH and the WHO. 

  • Stay home if you have a cough, difficulty breathing or a fever. Stay home and do not go out in public. 
  • Immediately contact the COVID-19 Hotline (0800 909 400 every day from 10:00 to 22:00). 
  • It is important not to go to the emergency room or see a doctor without informing them about your symptoms – first contact must be by telephone. The medical team must know your symptoms in advance so they can take the necessary measures to welcome you appropriately.

Ill or infected persons should wear a face mask to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others. Masks are effective only when used in combination with other hygiene practices and rules of behaviour. These include:

  • Washing your hands regularly with soap and water or using a hand disinfectant.
  • Sneezing or coughing into a handkerchief; or if you do not have one, into the crook of your arm.
  • Avoiding close contact (up to one meter) with people who are coughing or have breathing difficulties.
  • It is recommended suggested that you avoid all physical greeting contact such as handshaking.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to avoid transfer of virus.

For more details on protective measures and how to use face masks, please see the corresponding instructions from the WHO:


What actions do I take if I have recently visited (past 14 days) areas where COVID-19 is spreading?

If it is the case and you are scheduled to visit the GCSP, please contact the centre by sending an email to [email protected]  

All persons entering Switzerland from states and areas with a high risk of infection must be quarantined. The list of these countries and areas has been updated on 6 January, it can be found here.



What if I have planned to attend a GCSP course or event?

In 2021, the GCSP activities calendar and portfolio displayed on this website might be subject to rapid modifications, depending on the evolution of the situation. It has been decided that all 2021 activities until June 2021, will run online.

We care about our participants and we want them to feel safe. Therefore, in order to demonstrate purpose, we are analysing each individual activity at the centre based on a detailed risk assessment. One of the most significant risks considered includes the health of our participants and of our staff. 

In accordance with the decisions and recommendations of the Council of State of the Canton of Geneva and the cantonal health authorities, we will also be tracking attendance at all of our events moving forward. Consequently, we kindly ask our attendees to register for the events. This will allow us to maintain a record of all people attending our events in order to get in contact should the need arise.

Please note that all GCSP employees have received clear instructions to reassure participants attending our events, courses and other activities that we have procedures in place to prevent and also react, if necessary. 


How do I find out if my course or activity is cancelled or postponed?

We are updating this page on a weekly basis. If you cannot find the information, please contact your respective activity coordinator or course director to discuss your concerns and, if necessary, make alternative arrangements. If you do not have such contact information, please email [email protected]


How is the GCSP monitoring the situation and managing its response to the outbreak?

We have established an internal Task Force that is reviewing comprehensively and carefully assessing information about the outbreak and its impact around the world from a wide range of sources, such as the WHO, Swiss authorities, as well as other universities and many of the organisations we work with throughout the year. All GCSP staff are required to complete a risk assessment for each GCSP activity and submit it to the Task Force for review. Based on this assessment, the Task Force makes recommendations for any action to be taken by the GCSP in response to the outbreak. This approach ensures that our response to the outbreak is appropriate, balanced and effective. The internal protection plan is regularly updated.


Where is the GCSP getting their information?

We are closely following updates and instructions received from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), Swiss authorities (Canton de Genève) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). We are also consulting our in-house expertise at an operational level on crisis management and health security. Find out more here: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).



Sources of Information: