Testing and vaccinations

The crisis management team of the University of Bern has closely examined the possibilities and effects of individual testing and mass testing on everyday life at the University and has adapted this concept several times based on the epidemiological situation and the requirements of the federal government and the canton. Currently (as of September 1, 2021), a certificate will be required (3G: vaccinated, recovered, or tested) for all courses at the University that cannot be categorized as part of basic studies (Bachelor's and Master's programs). Under the 3G concept, the focus is on individual testing.

Q&A on SARS-CoV2 mass testing

The testing strategy of the University of Bern is based on the framework set by the canton and the federal government. The testing strategy is regularly reviewed and adapted according to the pandemic’s development as well as operational requirements.  It is important to ensure that all tests are of high quality, are methodologically correct, use appropriate procedures, and produce epidemiologically meaningful indications.

The University will offer free PCR testing for students and employees with a Unicard. They can be tested at three different locations in Länggasse starting in October at the latest, after the free testing offer of the federal government will have come to an end. Further information will follow shortly.

Here, the conditions set by the federal government and the canton apply and, as of October 1, also new payment modalities for people with no symptoms. Important: negative antigen tests (rapid tests) performed at test centers, pharmacies and doctors' offices provide a certificate that is valid for only 24 hours.

At the start of the fall semester, the University plans to offer intermittent testing opportunities at several locations on campus and adjust as needed. Only PCR tests taken from saliva samples will be offered. Details will be communicated in a timely manner. 

The University will offer free PCR testing for students and employees with a Unicard. They can be tested at three different locations in Länggasse starting in October at the latest, after the free testing offer of the federal government will have come to an end. Further information will follow shortly.

  • PCR tests: Direct detection of genetic viral material. Can be performed on mucosal swabs or from spit samples. The method is sensitive but expensive. Symptom-free virus carriers can also be identified in this way.
  • Antigen tests: Direct detection of a protein component of the viral material using a swab from the nasal or oral mucosa. The method is less sensitive than PCR tests, but easy to perform. Detection of viral material in asymptomatic individuals is limited. Also referred to as a rapid antigen test or antigen self-test.
  • Rapid antigen tests: refers to antigen tests. The federal government covers 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 1 October, the federal government will no longer pay for rapid antigen tests for asymptomatic people (e.g. for a test certificate). There are exceptions:
    • Children and young people under age 16
    • People who cannot be vaccinated on medical grounds (medical certificate required)
    • People visiting healthcare institutions (no Covid test certificate issued)
  • Antigen self-tests: refers to antigen tests. In the following cases you are entitled to obtain 5 tests every 30 days from pharmacies free of charge:
    • 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.
  • Mass testing:  Systematic testing of a specific group, can be one-time or repetitive. Both antigen tests and PCR tests are used for this purpose. The testing strategy of the University is based exclusively on PCR tests.
  • Pool or mini-pools in the testing procedure: Saliva samples from 5-8 subjects are pooled simultaneously for PCR testing. Only if this pool test is positive, individual retests are performed on the basis of the stored saliva samples. This procedure is efficient and more cost-effective than individual testing if the pre-test probability is low.

At present, mass testing is no longer planned. However, this can change at any time due to the epidemiological situation and corresponding plans are ready for implementation.

In principle, institutes are allowed to organize and perform tests independently. For these, the following applies: For tests that are carried out on one's own initiative and independently, the respective initiators must also independently bear the procurement, costs, and consequences.

Within the 3G concept, persons who are neither vaccinated nor have been infected with COVID-19 can obtain a time-limited COVID certificate by means of a negative test result. This allows access to the University campus for courses that are not categorized as part of the bachelor's or master's program. A test certificate is valid for 72 hours for PCR testing. Antigen testing provides a certificate for 24 hours.

Q&A on vaccinations

Yes. The crisis management team recommends, without reservation, vaccination against Covid-19 for all persons 12 years of age and older. Only individuals with known allergies to vaccines should consider the situation individually with their physician. The pandemic and its local impact can only be ended through high levels of participation in vaccination. The crisis management team appeals to each individual’s responsibility to contribute. The crisis management team also reminds people that there are vulnerable people who, despite being vaccinated, cannot build up sufficient immune protection against the virus because their immune system cannot respond adequately (e.g., people after organ transplants, people on medication for chronic inflammatory diseases, or people with congenital immune deficiencies). The crisis management team is also following with concern developments in hospitals and the strain on staff in intensive care units. Get vaccinated!

Vaccination is the best and easiest way to obtain a COVID certificate. This allows free access to all university courses. However, despite the certificate, the general hygiene rules still apply (distance, masks, hand disinfection).

See above.

The University has initiated a vaccination program for at-risk individuals with patient contact or contact with biological specimens, which is now complete. However, the in-house physician can assist on an individual basis to organize additional vaccinations for vulnerable and exposed individuals.

Yes - see certificate requirement for courses outside of Bachelor's and Master's programs. A certificate requirement applies to all University courses and activities outside of these courses. For the certificate, vaccination is one of the 3 options.

Yes. At the start of the fall semester, the University will offer targeted vaccination campaigns on campus and will provide information on this separately.