Coronavirus: Switzerland to stock shops with a million masks a day

Switzerland said Wednesday it would deliver to shops a million masks a day, but insisted it would not make it mandatory to wear them as coronavirus restrictions start to ease.

Coronavirus: Switzerland to stock shops with a million masks a day

The army will be used to distribute the million masks daily for the next two weeks, for stores to be able to sell to the public.

Switzerland stopped short of imposing full confinement in emergency measures introduced last month to combat the spread of the new coronavirus.

But on Monday it will begin to ease the restrictions as the spread of COVID-19 has slowed.

Coronavirus: Why Switzerland opposes making masks compulsory

Health Minister Alain Berset stressed at a press conference in Bern that the government “does not recommend wearing masks in everyday circumstances”, adding that physical distancing and handwashing were the most effective protection measures. 

Nevertheless, businesses which are due to reopen on Monday need to put in place protection plans for their customers and employees, and the government said that might involve adopting masks.

“If it becomes necessary to wear a mask as part of protection plans, it may be a good idea. Just buy these masks as you need them,” said Berset.

More than 28,000 people in Switzerland have tested positive for coronavirus, while more than 1,200 have died in the landlocked European country of 8.5 million people.

The Alpine nation has announced a three-stage easing of the restrictions imposed to suppress the COVID-19 pandemic, with some shops and services allowed to reopen from Monday.

Doctors' surgeries, dentists, creches, hairdressers and massage and beauty salons will be able to reopen.

Hospitals will be able to perform all procedures, including non-urgent ones, while DIY stores, garden centres and florists will also be able to open up again.

Mourners outside the immediate family will once more be able to attend funerals, while food shops that also sell other goods will be able to reopen the whole store.

Other shops and schools will be able to return on May 11, if conditions allow.

Finally, vocational schools and universities, museums, zoos and libraries are scheduled to reopen on June 8.

Sports minister Viola Amherd said Wednesday that non-contact sports might be able to get going again in early May.

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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