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Coronavirus in Switzerland: New cases push total above 370

Across Switzerland the total of infections now confirmed to be more than 370. A second person died of the virus on Sunday.

Coronavirus in Switzerland: New cases push total above 370
Photo: PIERO CRUCIATTI / AFP

Several newly detected infections in the western Swiss cantons of Vaud and Geneva have pushed the total confirmed cases in Switzerland to more than 370. 

Ticino has the most confirmed cases of any Swiss canton with 66, while Vaud (47), Zurich (40) and Geneva (38) also have a large number of confirmed cases. 

In all, 21 out of Switzerland’s 26 cantons have declared cases of coronavirus with the total on Monday March 9th standing at more than 370.

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

On Sunday morning, a 76-year-old man in Basel Country died, making him the second victim of the virus in Switzerland. 

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

On Monday, March 9th, authorities in Zurich said every doctor in the canton was now equipped to test for the virus. 

The virus has already made an impact on the Swiss economy, with experts suggesting that healthcare spending is likely to rise to CHF1.7 billion as a result. 

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 March 3rd, 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. 

In Switzerland, 55 percent of those infected have been men, while 45 percent have been women. 

Switzerland's total of 268 brings it into the top ten of countries with the most infected. Four other European countries – Italy, France, Germany and Spain – also are among the top ten, as are China, South Korea, Japan, the USA and Iran. 

France and Germany both have more than 1100 confirmed cases, while in Italy there are at least 7,500, with more than 200 deaths. 

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.

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 destinations. “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.

Avoiding 'mask hysteria'

Health officials have frequently told the general public that healthy people should not wear masks and to refrain from purchasing them as they make it more difficult for sick people and medical professionals to access them. 

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment. 

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. 

Some 3.4 percent of cases are fatal, according to the latest WHO figures. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

 

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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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