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HEALTH

Coronavirus: How Swiss ‘visitor boxes’ are again allowing nursing home visits

Nursing homes in Switzerland have begun to again allow visits from the outside world, having banned or severely restricted them due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus: How Swiss ‘visitor boxes’ are again allowing nursing home visits
Besucherboxen - visitation boxes - in Swiss retirement homes. Photo: DPA

In order to do so, Swiss nursing homes have begun constructing visitation boxes (Besucherboxen) which allow visitors to engage with elderly residents without the risk of transmitting the virus. 

German news outlet SWR estimates that the boxes cost CHF1000 to construct. 

A number of outbreaks in nursing homes around the world have become deadly, with authorities often resorting to visitation bans to prevent infection. 

This however has contributed to feelings of loneliness for many nursing home residents, with management creating the boxes as a solution. 

Zurich

Zurich has been the latest canton to again encourage visitation. As of Thursday, April 30th, visitation will again be allowed in Zurich nursing homes, provided protective health measures have been adopted. 

Otherwise known as ‘visitor zones’, the visitation boxes allow communication via phone or speakers while preventing transmission through a sheet of plexiglass or glass. 

Besucherboxen – visitation boxes – in Swiss retirement homes. Photo: DPA

People over the age of 65 are at a much higher risk of becoming severely sick or dying from the virus. 

According to research conducted by The Local Switzerland earlier in April, the median age of dying from the virus in Switzerland is 83. 

What we know about the victims of the coronavirus pandemic in Switzerland

Only 35 of the more than 1700 deaths in Switzerland have been among people younger than 60. 

In Zurich, 60 percent of the total deaths from the virus have come among nursing home residents. 

 

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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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