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HEALTH

Switzerland launches nationwide coronavirus immunity study

Researchers said Thursday they had begun collecting blood samples and interviewing people across Switzerland to determine what proportion of the population has antibodies to the novel coronavirus, and their level of immunity.

Switzerland launches nationwide coronavirus immunity study
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

The new research programme, called “Corona Immunitas”, said in a statement that over the next six months it would collect epidemiological data on immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. 

Blood study shows five percent of Genevans have contracted coronavirus

The deadly disease has so far killed nearly 1,300 people in Switzerland while nearly 28,500 have tested positive. But far more people are believed to have been infected with the virus than those who have tested positive.

The Corona Immunitas programme, which was created by the Swiss School of Public Health — an umbrella group bringing together the health science divisions of 12 universities — will provide “reliable data on the number of persons with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies,” it said.

“As part of the research programme, people throughout Switzerland are being interviewed and SARS-CoV-2 antibody blood tests are being carried out,” it said.

The programme, created as a public-private partnership with the backing of the Swiss government, will gather data showing how individual regions of the country have been affected, as well as specific population groups, the statement stressed.

It would also explore the extent and duration of immunity against the virus.

“The representative data will provide information on the number of people who have antibodies against the new coronavirus and whether it is possible to become infected again despite the antibodies,” it said.

Germany and Italy have already launched country-wide antibody tests, and other countries have said they will soon roll out similar tests.

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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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