FAQs

General questions

What is pooling? Pooling means combining several individual samples into one sample. This combined sample is then tested and the result represents all of the individual samples. Pooling is especially well suited to groups where the illness does not occur frequently. In most cases the pooled samples are negative, i.e. no virus is found. This means that all of the samples included in the batch are negative and do not have to be tested individually. Pooling enables laboratories to analyse several samples within a very short time and to test more people simultaneously.
What is depooling? If a pool tests positive for COVID-19, it is initially not possible to tell which of the pooled samples is positive. The batch then needs to be “depooled”. This can be done in two ways. Option A: All of the saliva samples in the pool are tested again individually. However, this is only possible if the individuals in the pool are known and the individual samples are kept for this purpose. Option B: All of the samples need to be collected again and tested individually. Option A is used for the programme “serial testing in establishments in Basel-Stadt”.
What type of test is used? Pooled PCR saliva testing is used for widespread repetitive testing in the Canton of Basel-Stadt. Repetitive testing using rapid antigen tests is possible in some exceptional cases, but trained specialist staff are required for sampling. This must be discussed with the mass testing team in each individual case.
How do PCR saliva tests work? PCR is a test method that uses virus gene sequences as indicators. These gene sequences are amplified in order to increase the method’s sensitivity. This allows even small quantities of the virus to be detected. Testing does not involve nasopharyngeal swabs. The laboratories work with validated methods available to SwissMedic.
How reliable are PCR saliva tests? Saliva tests with RT-PCR analysis are highly conclusive and considerably more reliable than rapid antigen tests.
How do rapid antigen tests work? Rapid antigen tests are done with nasopharyngeal swabs and give a result between 15 and 20 minutes. They cannot currently be done with a saliva sample.
Where can establishments sign up if they want to take part in the programme? Interested establishes can find out more and register here.
Why should an establishment get involved in the repetitive testing programme? The testing programme helps to detect asymptomatic coronavirus cases early on and to break chains of infection. Establishments are therefore making an important contribution to slowing the spread of the virus, lowering case numbers, preventing closures and getting the coronavirus pandemic under control.
Do establishments that have already registered have to deregister if the number of individuals to be tested falls below 5? No. Establishments do not have to deregister if the number of individuals to be tested has fallen due to the current situation. The minimum registration requirement of 5 people has now also been lifted.
Establishments must upload a safety policy when they register. Which information needs to be included in this safety policy? The safety policy aims to show what the protective measures against coronavirus look like in the establishment. If your establishment already has several partial safety policies, please summarise them in a document and submit it.

What criteria are used to decide whether an establishment can participate in the programme?

Any establishments with headquarters in Basel-Stadt can register for serial testing. The 5-person rule has now been lifted.
Can employees take part in repetitive testing if they do not have their own smartphone? Yes. However, they do need internet access and their own email address. When they register, these employees must check the box “I would like to participate via email because I do not have a smartphone”. Ticking this box makes email address a mandatory field and the mobile number can be left out.
Which establishments can register for regular mass testing? Any establishment can take part (SMEs, authorities, healthcare institutions) if they have their headquarters (head office or branch) in the Canton of Basel-Stadt. Establishments that are interested in regular mass testing for their employees can find out more and register at www.coronavirus.bs.ch/massentests-betriebe.
Where is testing done? Testing is done at the establishment’s site. Alternatively, employees can also take the test kit home with them, do the test at home on the morning of the test day and hand over the sample at work.
How often are the tests done? We recommend weekly testing. However, employees can decide whether they want to do a test weekly, take a break or stop, for example during holidays.
What does participation cost? The Federal Government pays the costs of pooled PCR saliva testing. Establishments must organise the logistics and medical staff for rapid antigen testing themselves. They also need to take into account that the FOPH refunds a certain amount that will not necessarily over all of the costs. Establishments must also cover any costs for transporting samples to the cantonal collection point.
What do participating establishments need to do? Establishments register for repetitive testing here. Each establishment needs to specify a contact person when they register. The canton checks the registration and gets in touch with the establishment. If it satisfies the criteria for participation, the establishment bindingly registers for repetitive testing online, informs its workforce and encourages them to take part (testing is voluntary for employees). The canton provides materials for internal communication (flyers, posters, videos, presentation, etc.). Interested employees register using a QR code. Establishments must ensure that their employees receive all of the necessary information about mass testing in establishments and set up “hand-out and collection” points in the establishment. Establishments must also ensure that the samples collected are delivered to the cantonal collection point within the specified time frame on the test day.

How does internal communication work?

Establishments are given the relevant documents during the briefing, e.g. a presentation for providing information to staff, a detailed schedule, instructions for the saliva test and posters for identifying the “hand-out and collection points”, etc.
Does mass testing exempt establishments from the requirement to work from home? The requirement to work from home is being changed to a recommendation to work from home in accordance with the Federal Council decision of 23 June 2021. Working on site is therefore no longer linked to the requirement for repetitive testing. The Canton of Basel-Stadt recommends continued participating in testing.
Should staff who are working from home also take part in testing? No. Staff who only work from home do not take part in serial testing.
Are people tested if they have already had Covid-19? People who have tested positive for COVID-19 may not participate in serial testing for 6 months. Tests can still be positive for this period after infection and would entail self-isolation. You can read about the latest requirements on this website in the paragraph “Conditions of participation”.
Are people tested if they have been vaccinated? Fully vaccinated individuals are considered to be immune from the day of their second vaccination. People who have been vaccinated do not have be designated for serial testing in the establishment, but they can continue to participate in or start testing after their second vaccination. Because of the vulnerable setting, we recommend that staff in care and nursing homes and Spitex staff continue to participate in serial testing even after they have been fully vaccinated. You can read about the latest requirements on this website in the paragraph “Conditions of participation”.
Are people tested if they are regularly taking rapid tests? Yes. PCR saliva tests are highly conclusive and considerably more reliable than rapid tests.
Is preference given to establishments that have been particularly affected by the virus? Establishments with on-going large outbreaks are generally not given preferential treatment. Individual cases are analysed in larger outbreaks.
How long can the saliva pool be stored before laboratory analysis? It is essential that samples are collected on the test day (i.e. on the day of transport to the laboratory). This means that samples cannot be taken the day before and then stored overnight.
Does the saliva pool need to be refrigerated? The saliva pool does not need to be refrigerated. Storage at room temperature is sufficient. Direct sunlight and heat should be avoided.
Is it possible for an establishment to put together the “pools” itself to avoid a “coincidental” absence of e.g. several staff from one team in the event of a positive test result? No. The pools are put together at random at the laboratory. However, the random nature of the pools is not relevant: Depooling is done in the laboratory following a positive pool result, so quarantine is not ordered even if a pool is positive.
Can staff be required to participate? No. Staff are only encouraged to take part. Participation in mass testing must be voluntary.
Does mass testing in establishments exempt people from the requirement to quarantine? Under some circumstances, quarantine following close contact with somebody with Covid-19 may be eased for the employees of establishments where staff are subject to targeted and repetitive testing. You can read about the latest requirements on this website in the paragraph “Exemption from quarantine”.
What happens if an establishment has a positive pool? If this happens, the “depooling” process described above is used (analysis of the individual saliva samples in the laboratory without resampling).
Do all employees from a positive pool have to quarantine? No. Staff in a positive pool do not have to quarantine because an individual PCR is created from the original samples. Information about a positive pool is not communicated until all of the individual results are available. There is therefore no temporary quarantine.
What is the procedure in the event of a positive test result? Individuals who test positive must go into isolation immediately and will be contacted by the competent contact tracing team in the canton.
What happens if the test result is negative? The individuals tested will be informed of the test result via SMS.
How long does it take for test results to become available? Test results are normally ready within 36-48 hours of receipt at the laboratory.
Can a negative test result from testing in establishments be used as proof for cross-border travel? Not at the moment. However, this could change when Covid Certificates are introduced.
Are the costs also covered for cross-border commuters? Yes. The Federal Government also covers the costs for employees from abroad.

 

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For employees of participating establishments

My establishment is taking part in the programme. How do I register? You will get all of the information required for registering for the testing programme from your establishment.
Who cannot participate in the testing programme? People who have had a positive COVID-19 test during the past 6 months are not allowed to participate. If the result was more than 6 months ago, the individual can join the programme. The programme is exclusively intended for employees in a registered establishment and not, for example, for family members.
Where can I find the instructions for the PCR saliva test? You can find detailed instructions for testing on this website.
How will I find out my test results? Participants are informed of their individual test result by SMS. If the participant didn’t give a mobile telephone number when they registered, they will be informed of the test result via email.
What happens with personal data? No personal data or test results are sent to the establishment. The establishment only receives the test statistics. More details about this can be found in the declarations of consent that must be acknowledged at registration.
What are the staff costs like for participation in mass testing? Participation in mass testing in establishments is straightforward and inexpensive. Firstly, appointing a person responsible for the site is defined as the responsibility of the establishment. This person is responsible for internal communication. Furthermore, the establishment is also responsible for delivering the samples to the cantonal collection points on test days. Everything else is the responsibility of the canton, including pooling (mixing) of the samples, depooling in the event of a positive pool and deliveries of empty test kits.
What if I miss a test date? You should get tested again on the next available test date.
Can employees keep working as normal while waiting for their test result? Yes – provided the currently applicable protective and hygiene measures are adhered to and the individual being tested does not have any COVID-19 symptoms.
How big are the test groups? Participation in the testing programme no longer requires a minimum number of participants.
What should I do if there isn’t a barcode on the test tube? Please talk to the person responsible for the establishment.
Do these recommendations also apply to employees in care and nursing homes? No. Because of the vulnerable settings in care and nursing homes, we recommend that staff continue to participate in serial testing even after they have been fully vaccinated. This applies as an exception to the 6-month rule and only in care and nursing homes and for Spitex employees.

 

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Establishments active throughout Switzerland

Our establishment
is active throughout Switzerland.

Where can we register the establishment?

Establishments active throughout Switzerland with headquarters in the Canton of Basel-Stadt can contact the support email address: Covid.Massentest.Betrieb@bs.ch

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Distribution and collection of tests

How do establishments get the test kits? Once your establishment has successfully registered, it will be sent (empty) test kits by the canton. The test kits are sent to you by post to the relevant site. 
How do the saliva samples get to the collection point? The establishment itself organises and finances transport of saliva samples from the establishment to a collection point (selected post office branch).

It’s too difficult for us to get to the post office.

Are there other options for sending the saliva samples to 
the laboratory?

Unfortunately not. It is not possible to send samples from the establishment straight to the laboratory. Establishments can choose to use a courier service to send the samples to the collection point.
Can the tests be handed over
at the post office counter?
No. Collection containers for the saliva samples will be available at the relevant collection point. The samples can be placed in these containers (either by the establishment itself or by a courier).
What is the purpose of the collection points at the post office? This process is cost-effective and efficient because the collection points mean that every establishment does not need to be visited individually.
How often are the collection containers with the samples emptied? The collection containers are emptied twice a day.
The collection container is full. Where can I hand in my samples? Please notify the staff at the post office counter if the collection container is full.
Why are only some post offices participating as collection points?

For logistical reasons, it is unfortunately not possible to have a cantonal collection point in each post office branch.

The Department of Health Basel-Stadt has
chosen the location of the cantonal collection points so that the distances to hand in the samples are as short as possible for the establishements.

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