UPDATE: This is how Switzerland’s coronavirus tracking app will work

Switzerland will launch a coronavirus tracing app on May 11th. Here’s how it will work.

UPDATE: This is how Switzerland’s coronavirus tracking app will work
(Illustration) An app used to track coronavirus. Photo: OLIVIER DOULIERY / AFP

Swiss researchers from the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich (ETH) and Lausanne (EPFL) have developed a contact tracing app which will be released publicly on May 11th, pending legal approval. 

The app, called DP-3T, uses bluetooth to digitally trace contact in order to get a more accurate idea for how the virus is spreading within the general public – and how to stop it. 

The app registers when an individual comes into contact with other individuals through a person’s smartphone location systems. 

READ: Swiss scientists launch a new app to collect Covid-19 data

If someone contracts the coronavirus, the app warns everyone who has come in close contact with that person that they may have contracted the virus. 

Some cantons have already started to measure contact tracing individually, however the current plan is slated to operate at a countrywide level. 

A trial version of the app can be downloaded here

Will it be effective? 

With contact tracing apps proving effective in several Asian countries, researchers have been looking to implement something similar in Switzerland. 

There have however been privacy protection issues, as well as concerns that it will not be effective unless it is downloaded by at least 60 percent of Swiss society. 

EXPLAINED: How will the post-lockdown tracing system look in Switzerland? 

Researchers from Oxford University have said that the app will be ineffective with a lower percentage signup. 

As a result, some Swiss politicians have argued that the app must be made mandatory. 

SVP councillor Andrea Gmür said “for the app to be effective, it needs to be mandatory during the acute emergency phase”. 

While the legality of such a move is questionable, other digital experts have argued that even with a lower percentage take-up rate, it could be effective in tracing contact. 

How about privacy concerns? 

Switzerland had initially been a part of a European initiative on contract tracing, but withdrew due to privacy concerns. 

They did so after realising that user data would not be protected, and went on launch the D3-PT system which, they said, would be more “decentralised and transparent”.

The DP-3T app uses decentralised information which better protects personal data as it can less easily be collated, stored and harvested. 

In a statement, the creators have said that the system protects the privacy of app users. 

“The aim of the system is to minimise the risks to the privacy and security of individuals and communities and to guarantee the highest level of data protection”. 

How does contact tracking work?

The process involves identifying contaminated people, so that measures can be taken to prevent the spread of infection on to others.

It is all the more important in cases when the sick person has no symptoms and may not even know they are sick.

Once the infected person is identified, efforts are made to locate and test the people they have been in contact with within the past two weeks. If one of those contacts is found to be infected, the investigation starts again.


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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