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HEALTH

No handshakes and cancelled business trips: How Swiss companies are reacting to coronavirus

Coronavirus has officially reached Switzerland. Here’s how Swiss businesses are reacting to the spread

No handshakes and cancelled business trips: How Swiss companies are reacting to coronavirus
Swiss food giant Nestle CEO Ulf Mark Schneider.Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Switzerland on Tuesday in the southern canton of Ticino. Swiss businesses, in an effort to halt the spread, have taken up a variety of measures including encouraging employees not to shake hands to cancelling business trips. 

Employees must not shake hands

As reported on Wednesday in Swiss daily 20 Minutes, Swiss building company Holcim told its staff operating on the Italian border to avoid shaking hands due to the virus. 

UPDATED: Switzerland confirms first case of coronavirus

The poster said “Due to the current situation, please avoid shaking hands”. 

Similarly, telecommunications company Swisscom and supermarket Coop have told employees to avoid shaking hands and touching their faces, while reminding them to wash their hands frequently. 

What is Switzerland doing to prevent coronavirus spreading from Italy?

Swiss Post has also circulated a memo asking employees to refrain from shaking hands and kissing. 

Nestle cancels all business trips globally

Swiss food giant Nestle, owner of KitKat and Nespresso, on Tuesday said it was postponing all business trips until March 15 at the earliest because of the new coronavirus epidemic.

“We have asked all of our employees worldwide not to travel for business purposes until March 15 2020. We will review this measure in light of external developments,” a company spokesman told AFP, quoting an internal note. 

The spokesman said that the company was not calling back expatriate employees but added: “We monitor the situation closely to ensure the safety of our employees.” 

Nestle, which owns a range of household brands including also Nescafe, Maggi and Perrier, employs 291,000 people.

Up to date information

Swisscom told 20 Minutes that they were running an up to date internal memo service with all the latest developments on the virus. 

The Swiss Office of Public Health will release an information campaign detailing how to stop the spread of the virus.

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Posters and leaflets will be left at airports and train stations. 

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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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