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Coronavirus: Basel to consider school closures from Monday

Authorities in Basel are set to meet this week to discuss the possibility of closing schools when the current holiday period ends on March 6th. Schools in other parts of the country have however pledged to remain open.

Coronavirus: Basel to consider school closures from Monday
Basel University Hospital. Image: By Taxiarchos228, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Basel’s schools – currently on school holidays – are set to reopen on March 9th, however education authorities are considering whether they should be re-opened at all due to coronavirus concerns. 

School holiday periods differ from canton to canton, while the decision on closing schools will be up to cantonal authorities. 

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In Switzerland's southern neighbour Italy, where the outbreak has been the most severe of anywhere in Europe, a similar decision will be made in the coming days on whether to close schools.

Will Basel’s schools reopen on Monday?

The education department in the canton of Basel Country said it will meet on Thursday to discuss whether or not schools should be reopened. The responsible authorities for Basel City will also meet “sometime this week” to discuss the matter. 

As reported in Swiss daily Watson, any decision on whether to close schools would take into account both public health concerns as well as the potential impacts for parents who would need to find alternative means of caring for their children. 

Avoiding school closures where possible

The policy across Switzerland is to avoid shutting schools where possible, saying that closures, generally speaking, do more harm than good. As reported in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, this is not only the policy of the federal government but of all 26 cantons. 

READ: Two Swiss high school classes quarantined over coronavirus

Instead, schools have sought to emphasise the importance of hygiene. The Zurich Directorate of Education has printed a leaflet which is available in six languages on how to wash hands effectively and other measures that can curb the spread of the virus. 

Some school authorities have been asked by parents whether students live at home with grandparents or people with autoimmune conditions should continue to attend, however they have reiterated that this is an individual matter which should be discussed with doctors. 

Children are not at a particular risk

Authorities have been careful to reiterate that although all necessary measures should be taken to prevent the spread, the evidence as yet is that children are not at a particularly risk of catching the virus – unlike older people and the unwell. 

Therefore, precautions relating to schools have been mild compared to those for retirement homes. 

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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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