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

Updated: 25 November 2020
Please note that this page will be updated as the situation evolves. 


The safety and well-being of our community is our highest priority. We are closely monitoring the situation in Switzerland and in all affected countries and regions. We are doing a thorough risk assessment of all our current and planned activities (courses, workshop, and public discussions). Our activities update page is available here

*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.



What is the situation 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 304,593 cases have been detected in Switzerland. 

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.

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).


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

Effective March 4th, 2020, the diagnostic test of the COVID-19 is part of the analysis that are being reimbursed by your health insurance up to CHF 180.00 (franchise and participation fee remain applicable).

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 hand shaking.
  • 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  

Should you develop any respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath or breathing difficulties, please stay home, contact your doctor by phone for further instructions and email.




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

Over the next three months, the GCSP activities calendar and portfolio displayed on this website might be subject to rapid modifications, depending on the evolution of the situation.

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. 

Courses and events status update are available here


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

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


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.


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: 
•    WHO:  
•    Swiss authorities + helpline:  
•    Geneva authorities: