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How you can help others in Switzerland during the coronavirus pandemic

Want to help out during the coronavirus pandemic? Here’s how.

How you can help others in Switzerland during the coronavirus pandemic

The outbreak of the coronavirus has placed unprecedented strain on healthcare workers and other authorities, particularly those who serve the most vulnerable members of the community. 

With plenty of residents of Switzerland now working from home, having their hours cut or even losing their job completely, several of our readers have gotten in touch to ask how they can help out during the crisis. 

While this is by no means an exhaustive list, there are some organisations here which have been set up to help those in need. 

The majority of the following can be used across Switzerland, while there are other apps which are restricted to one region like Zurich and Basel

Red Cross ‘Five Up’ app

The Red Cross and the Swiss Public Utility Society launched an app which coordinates volunteer groups with people who wish to help out. 

Called ‘Five Up’, the app is available in four languages – English, German, French and Italian – and has a special sector dedicated to the coronavirus. 

More than 40,000 people have signed up to do a range of tasks including shopping for at risk people or watching their children when the have to work. 

Although both the volunteers and those in need of assistance need to have the app in order to communicate, hotlines have been set up for people to call who may be in need of assistance but do not have a smart phone. 

The numbers are 058 400 41 43 in French-speaking Switzerland and 058 400 41 41 in German-speaking Switzerland. 

Help Now Switzerland

The Help Now platform links people who want to help with those who need it the most. 

Unlike some of the other help campaigns, there are a wide variety of different forms of assistance someone using the app can provide. 

As yet, it is not available in English, but can be accessed in German and in French

Photo by Claudio Schwarz | @purzlbaum on Unsplash

For medical workers

Although Swiss authorities have said that hospitals are not at capacity, some areas of the country have been harder hit than others. 

The canton of Ticino, which borders the heavily hit region of northern Italy, has had just under a third of the country’s total deaths from the virus – despite having only four percent of the population. 

On Sunday, March 30th, Ticino authorities asked anyone who lived in the canton with medical experience – who was not already working in the health sector – to register to join the workforce. 

Anyone who fits the bill can do so through the following website

Shopping for the most vulnerable

Swiss supermarket chain Migros set up a free delivery service for the most vulnerable members of society, i.e. people with pre-existing conditions or who are over 65. 

The Migros ‘Amigos’ app – which was discontinued in 2019 but re-launched due to the coronavirus – lets people sign up to volunteer to deliver groceries. 

There is no contact with the recipients, as the groceries are left by the door and all transactions are made electronically. Recipients can give a tip electronically, rather than paying cash. 

More information is available here

Another app, Bring, also makes it easier to shop for other people. 


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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