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HEALTH

Coronavirus and travel: Will it be possible to leave Switzerland in the summer?

Health Minister Alain Berset told the Swiss people “we have no influence over what happens in other countries”, casting doubt on the likelihood of summer travel.

Coronavirus and travel: Will it be possible to leave Switzerland in the summer?
Aeroplanes at Geneva Airport. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

With Switzerland set to start loosening the coronavirus lockdown restrictions from April 27th, one major question has been whether or not Swiss residents will be able to travel in summer.

Swiss internet traffic has seen a marked increase in people searching for trips abroad, however Health Minister Alain Berset has indicated that current restrictions are unlikely to be loosened anytime soon. 

Although Swiss citizens and residents are not prohibited from leaving the country, the government has issued a recommendation that all non-essential trips abroad be cut

However, even for those looking to go abroad, the lack of international flights and restrictions on entry to non-nationals and residents in neighbouring countries has meant that crossing the border is an impossibility for many. 

Even where entry to enter another country is possible, there may be a compulsory quarantine period of 14 days which is likely to put a dampener on holiday plans. 

READ: Coronavirus in Switzerland: Why have the French and Italian-speaking regions been so hard hit?

‘We have no influence’

In a press conference late on Monday, Berset said that despite the progress being made in Switzerland, a return to frequent cross-border travel would again put the country at risk of a new spike in infections. 

Berset said that at a time when internal travel in Switzerland was discouraged, the main focus of every resident of Switzerland must be to comply with the restrictions rather than plan trips abroad. 

“We can achieve a good situation (in Switzerland) up until summer, but we have no influence as to what happens in other countries.”

Berset indicated that the country was monitoring everything happening abroad, however said that at this stage there was no indication as to when the recommendation against non-essential travel would be lifted. 

Berset said the most likely course of action would be for the government to reconsider travel advice in the third round of lockdown relaxations on June 8th, when the government may be looking to loosen rules on domestic tourism. 

Currently, travel across cantonal borders is discouraged but not completely banned. Tourism facilities have however been closed across the country. 

Wanderlust on the rise

From cross-border jaunts into Italy and France to longer trips to Paris and Berlin, search engines have reported an increase in wanderlust among Swiss internet users. 

The Local Italy: When will it be possible to travel to Italy again?

A study by Swiss research company Baar ZG showed an increase in searches for city breaks to London, Paris and Berlin. Searches to these major European cities increased by approximately 600,000, 400,000 and 200,000 respectively during the previous 30 days. 

The study also found that despite the lockdown, there have been few increases in searches for long-haul destinations, with Swiss residents preferring to search closer to home. 

 

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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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