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HEALTH

Switzerland’s coronavirus cases top 11,000 as more mobile monitoring promised

Switzerland on Thursday joined the small group of countries to have more than 11,000 cases of COVID-19, as it continued plans to start tracking crowd build-ups through mobile phone data.

Switzerland's coronavirus cases top 11,000 as more mobile monitoring promised
Photo: SALVATORE DI NOLFI / POOL / AFP

Switzerland, which is among the countries that have conducted most COVID-19 tests per capita, is the fifth country in Europe to pass 10,000 officially-recorded cases.

It follows neighbours Italy, Germany and France, and Spain — all of which have far bigger populations.

EXPLAINED: Why does Switzerland have such a high rate of confirmed coronavirus cases per capita?

Elsewhere, China, Iran and the United States have also passed the five-figure mark, according to the latest World Health Organization situation report on the global pandemic.

Switzerland's Italian-speaking southern region of Ticino, which borders hard-hit northern Italy, is the worst-affected of its 26 cantons, with 393 cases per 100,000 people.

Around two-fifths of Switzerland's COVID-19 deaths have occurred in Ticino. The first case of the new coronavirus was confirmed in Switzerland on February 24.

READ: What you need to know about Switzerland's coronavirus testing regime

Since then, “91,400 tests have been carried out for COVID-19, of which 14 percent were positive,” the Federal Office of Public Health said.

Those testing positive have ranged in age from under one to 102, with a median age of 52 years old, and a near-even split of men and women. 

'Too early' to ease restrictions

The Swiss government has ordered the closure of schools and all places of leisure, including restaurants, bars and non-food shops.

Last Friday it went further, banning all gatherings of more than five people, while anyone standing closer than two metres to others risks a fine.

“At the moment it would definitely be too early to talk about easing” the restrictions, health ministry official Daniel Koch, who is heading the Swiss response, told a press conference in Bern.

“We must first have proof that we have reached the peak of this epidemic — which unfortunately is not yet the case.”

Revelations this week that majority state-owned telecoms operator Swisscom would provide authorities with mobile phone data to monitor if people were adhering to the restrictions on public gatherings sparked an outcry.

But Koch said it was not a question of monitoring population movements in real time, but instead doing “retrospective analysis”.

Meanwhile some 3,800 to 4,000 troops — “the totality of the medical forces of the Swiss army” — have been mobilised, said Brigadier General Raynald Droz, chief of staff of the military's joint operations command.

The global number of officially-recorded infections has topped 480,000, with more than 21,800 deaths.

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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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