Switzerland puts army into effective quarantine over coronavirus fears

After an active member tested positive, the Swiss army has taken a number of strong steps in relation to the coronavirus outbreak, including cancelling events and secluding themselves from the public.

Switzerland puts army into effective quarantine over coronavirus fears

As reported in Swiss daily 20 Minutes, the entire active service contingent of the Swiss army – around 10,000 soldiers – are now effectively in quarantine. 

Events which involved interactions with the public have now been cancelled, while top-level meetings between senior staff officers will now happen via video conference rather than in person. 

UPDATE: Number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland continues to rise

Soldier tests positive for the virus

A solider who had recently visited Milan has tested positive in the canton of Bern. The man was quarantined in the infirmary of the battalion at Wangen an der Aare, with the three soldiers he had shared a room with also placed in quarantine. 

Anyone else the man had contact with was also placed in overnight quarantine on Monday evening. 

READ: What you need to know about coronavirus in Switzerland

The army stands ready

Although the army will continue to hold recruitment schools and refresher courses as per usual, measures have been taken to seclude service members from the general public. 

As the army said in a statement, service personnel must be ready at all times to intervene to protect the civilian population. 

“The army, as the strategic reserve of the national government, is ready to support the civilian authorities and the population at any time”,

With any positive confirmation leading to an entire company or battalion being quarantined, the army said that the measures were necessary.

Visiting hours to the army have been cancelled until at least mid-March. 

Sleeping ‘top and tail’

Active service members have also been instructed to change the way they sleep in order to minimise the chance of transmitting the virus. 

Service members sleeping in the same room have been told to sleep ‘head to tail’, i.e. with their feet in line with the head of the soldier in a neighbouring bed. 

Swiss Army spokesman Daniel Reist told 20 Minutes on Tuesday that the measures were an additional protection against the spread of the disease. 

“At the moment, the members of the army take turns sleeping with their heads in one direction and their feet in the other. In this way, the distance between people is kept as large as possible despite the limited space.”


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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