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HEALTH

Coronavirus in Switzerland: Number of cases rises above 260

Across Switzerland the total of infections now confirmed to be more than 260, with most cantons reporting at least one case.

Coronavirus in Switzerland: Number of cases rises above 260
Doctors treat a patient with the coronavirus. Image: AFP

In all, 20 out of Switzerland’s 26 cantons have declared cases of coronavirus with the total on Sunday March 8th standing at 260.

Ticino has 42 confirmed infections, including several health workers. Zurich has 30 cases, Vaud 30 and Geneva 24. 

Only Glarus, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Schaffhausen, Uri and Appenzeller-Innerrhoden have yet to register a case of the virus. 

On Thursday morning, a woman in the canton of Vaud became the first person to die of the virus

Updated figures come from cantonal authorities. Official federal government figures are lower as they require additional confirmations from the reference laboratory in Geneva. 

MAP: Which Swiss cantons have been most affected by coronavirus?

On Tuesday, the Federal Council has confirmed that there has been a transmission between people in Switzerland for the first time. 

Prior to this, all transmissions had happened in patients who had been overseas. 

Switzerland's 117 confirmed cases place it among the top 20 countries in the world in terms of coronavirus infection.

Two patients, one from Geneva and one from Ticino, have been the first to be released from hospital in Switzerland to have beaten the virus. 

France and Germany both have more than 200 confirmed cases, while in Italy there are at least 3,000, with more than 100 deaths. 

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Patients are doing well

Health authorities report that all the patients are doing well. “In most cases, the disease is mild and harmless,” said Daniel Koch, head of the communicable diseases division at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

According to FOPH, all those who had been tested positive so far have been either infected in Italy or by someone who had travelled to Italy.

More than 500 people in Switzerland have so far been tested for Covid-19 and over 100 are in quarantine or isolation.

Among them are 44 kindergarten children and eight teachers from Spreitenbach in canton Aargau, who might have been infected by one of the educators.

Forty-five students and nine teachers in a high school in Biel / Bienne have also been put in isolation over the weekend. 


And five employees of the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz were quarantined this weekend after coming in contact with a former guest who later tested positive for the virus in the canton of Zurich; the guest came to Switzerland from Italy.

Given the speed with which Covid-19 is spreading, the Swiss government is preparing to face a wide range of scenarios.

“What is true today may no longer be true the day after tomorrow,” Health Minister Alain Berset told Le Matin Dimanche on Sunday.

“There will be more cases, it is clear,” he said, adding that the most important measure is to contain the evolution of the epidemic.

Precautionary measures

In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung, Berset stressed that each person must follow precautionary measures, in particular by avoiding handshakes and kisses.

People are also be asked to reduce contact with each other, through “social distancing measures”, Koch, told the NZZ am Sonntag

In order for someone to catch the coronavirus, that person must spend more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person, health officials said.

Last week, the government has banned public events of more than 1,000 people. `

Sports events, carnivals, concerts, and exhibits, including the Geneva International Motor Show, have been cancelled until March 15th at least. On that day, depending on the coronavirus situation in the country, authorities will lift or extend the restrictions.

READ MORE: How coronavirus has hit life in Switzerland as car shows and football matches are cancelled

Some locations, like the canton of Bern and the city of Chur have also banned smaller public gatherings.

Health authorities have released new hygiene guidelines on measures people should take to protect themselves and others from catching this illness. Additionally, the government has set up a multilingual hotline for questions about Covid-19. The number, which operates 24 hours a day, is +41 58 463 00 00.


READ MORE: Switzerland publishes new coronavirus advice and launches multilingual hotline

Travel is also being affected.

After suspending its flights to mainland China, SWISS is also reducing its services to some Italian desinations. “As a consequence of the Covid-19 coronavirus, SWISS has decided, together with the Lufthansa Group, to reduce its frequencies to and from Italy until the end of March”, the airline announced on its website.

Flight restrictions are in effect to and from Milan, Bologna, Turin, Verona, Venice, Trieste, and Genoa.

“Any customers whose flights are cancelled through the above actions may rebook free of charge or have the cost of their ticket refunded”, the airline added.

 

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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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