Bern to become ‘open air bar’ in summer to beat coronavirus restrictions

The Swiss capital of Bern has laid out an ambitious plan to ensure a lively summer, all while complying with social distancing restrictions.

Bern to become ‘open air bar’ in summer to beat coronavirus restrictions
Photo by Shvets Anna from Pexels

Taking a leaf out of the book of Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Bern plans to open up public space to bars and cafes throughout summer. 

Cafes and bars will be allowed to place their tables in squares, places and open spaces throughout the city during the summer. 

READ: Switzerland rolls back coronavirus lockdown earlier than expected

Bars and restaurants may reopen from May 11th, provided they comply with stringent social distancing requirements. 

The additional space will allow the venues to comply with social distancing requirements put in place to curb the transmission of the coronavirus. 

The move is likely to be welcomed by both the venues and their customers, particularly as the city has indicated it will not charge the businesses anything for using the public space. 

Reto Nause, City of Bern Security Director, told Watson “We plan to enlarge the space for the outside seating in the restaurants. And that without additional costs for the restaurateurs.”

Nause said he hoped the move would prevent bankruptcies and would reinvigorate the sector.

Tom Berger, Vice President of the Buck Bar and Club Commission, said such a plan would be a great way for cafes and bars to recoup lost earnings due to months of forced closures. 

“If restaurateurs offer an additional offer in open spaces, distance rules can be observed. On the other hand, additional money can be earned, which will be sorely missing after the cancellation of major events like the European Championship”. 

Nause said a number of pop-up bars had already been approved for the summer and called upon bar owners to provide the city with their own creative and novel ideas. 

While footpaths and other public spaces would need to be kept free, the city indicated they were open to any ideas which would contribute to the ‘Mediterraneanisation’ of the city during summer. 


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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