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HEALTH

What is the real count of coronavirus infections in Switzerland?

With doubt cast on official infection figures, how widespread is the coronavirus in the Swiss population?

What is the real count of coronavirus infections in Switzerland?
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus, tallies of confirmed infections have been viewed with scepticism. 

This is primarily because these figures are completely reliant on how widespread a country’s testing regime is

UPDATE: What you need to know about the coronavirus crisis in Switzerland

In theory, if a country completes no coronavirus tests, it will have no confirmed infections with the virus – even if death tolls are rising. 

‘Five times higher’

A study completed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, estimated that the rate of true number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland is five times higher than the current number of confirmed infections. 

Using the figures, the Tages Anzeiger estimated what the true figures would be for Switzerland and the 26 cantons. 

The tally is determined by reference to a country’s death count, or Case Fatality Ratio (CFR). As at Thursday, April 16th, there are 1,242 deaths from the coronavirus in Switzerland. 

With Switzerland’s confirmed tally at approximately 26,500 on Thursday, April 16th, this means that according to the study the actual count is likely to be higher than 132,000. 

Cantonal differences

Given the diverse impact of the coronavirus in each Swiss canton, there are also likely to be significant differences in infections across the country. 

In Ticino – where the death toll has been the highest in Switzerland – only 12 percent of coronavirus cases have been properly confirmed with a test. 

Ticino has had just under 3,000 confirmed cases, which means that the likely tally is approximately 25,000. 

In Valais, which has 1,700 cases, this is assumed to be 20 percent of the case total – meaning the real total is approximately 8,500. 

Conversely, in Zurich – where the rate of testing has been much higher – the official figure of 3,100 is assumed to be around 40 percent of the actual total. 

As a result, the number of people infected with coronavirus in the country’s most populous canton is expected to be 7,750 

 

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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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