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HEALTH

UPDATED: Switzerland confirms first case of coronavirus

Switzerland reported its first case of new coronavirus on Tuesday, after outbreaks were identified in its main neighbours Austria, France, Germany and Italy.

UPDATED: Switzerland confirms first case of coronavirus
(Illustration) A hospital in Geneva. The first case of coronavirus was detected in southern Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The case is a man in his 70s who was infected near Milan where he attended an event on February 15, federal health office chief Pascal Strupler told reporters. 

The man is from the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino on the border with Italy and has been with his family since suffering the first symptoms on February 17. 

READ: What is Switzerland doing to prevent coronavirus spreading from Italy?

He is now in isolation in a hospital and anyone who has come into contact with him since his return from Milan will be tested and placed in quarantine for 14 days. 

“His state of health is good,” the health office said in a statement, adding that the risk of contagion for Switzerland as a whole remained only “moderate”. 

But it also said that, because of the proximity to Italy, “the probability is growing that other cases will be diagnosed”. 

Prior to this case, Switzerland had tested some 300 suspect cases that were all found to be negative. 

The government said on Monday that it had stepped up testing on patients with flu-like symptoms and was working to raise awareness at all border points.

Switzerland on Monday had said the country was in a state of “heightened vigilance” because of a surge in Italy.

Prior to this case, the country had tested some 300 suspect cases that were all found to be negative.

The government said on Monday that it had stepped up testing on patients with flu-like symptoms and was working to raise awareness at all border points.

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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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