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HEALTH

Switzerland to set up coronavirus hotline

Despite having no currently active cases of coronavirus, Switzerland will set up a hotline in the coming days to deal with questions from the public relating to the coronavirus.

Switzerland to set up coronavirus hotline
Photo: THOMAS SAMSON / AFP

Concerns about the coronavirus have swept across Switzerland and much of the globe. Two patients quarantined in a hospital in Zurich on Monday evening with suspected cases of the virus were later found to be clear. 

READ: Two quarantined Zurich patients test negative for coronavirus

As reported in The Local Switzerland on Tuesday, pharmacies across much of the country sold out of protective masks – despite experts warning that these masks did little to stop the spread of the virus. 

The virus, which originated in China, has been detected in 17 countries around the world. As yet, there are no cases of human-to-human transmission confirmed outside China. 

While the World Health Organisation said it is monitoring the situation, it is not yet at pandemic levels. 

Steps have been taken across the country to prepare as best as possible for the virus. 

Geneva’s National Reference Centre for Emerging Viral Infections has established a task force to deal with the coronavirus. 

The Swiss Government is also investigating whether a stockpile of surgical masks purchased in 2009 for the 2010-2011 flu pandemic can still be used. 

READ MORE: From coffee to nuclear fuel: What you need to know to understand Switzerland's strategic stockpiles

Authorities have said that part of the motivation for establishing the hotline is to discourage panic in the community. 

So far, only people who have travelled to China have contracted the virus. Healthy and younger people are less likely to contract the virus, with elderly people and the chronically ill at the greatest risk. 

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HEALTH

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad
 

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