Coronavirus: Switzerland to release a road map for reopening shuttered borders

The Swiss government said on Wednesday that it would produce a 'road map' outlining how the country's borders can be reopened.

Coronavirus: Switzerland to release a road map for reopening shuttered borders
This photograph taken on April 15, 2020, near Collex at a border post between Switzerland and France, shows concrete blocks closing the border adorned with graffiti reading in French: "The virus won't

Closures along Switzerland’s borders – particularly with France, Italy and Germany – have caused havoc for those living along the border, many of whom have been separated from family and friends along the other side. 

Pressure has been rising on the Swiss government to relax border controls and restore freedom of movement. As a result, the Swiss government said on Wednesday that it would produce a timetable to show how the country's borders can be reopened.

As yet, the government has given no indication as to when the timeline will be released – or which restrictions would be relaxed first. 

Border closures

On March 25th, Switzerland closed all its borders to everyone except citizens, residents and cross-border permit holders – while also shutting down several border crossings. 

On April 16th, the border closures were extended to prohibit cross-border shopping. On May 11th, family reunions will again be permitted – however these were limited in scope. 

As reported in the NZZ on Wednesday May 6th, a think tank looking at how to reopen the Swiss economy has called upon authorities to allow all family and work-related crossings to again take place, particular in neighbouring regions which are less affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Currently, unmarried couples and extended families are not able to cross the border to see each other. 

Representatives in border regions of France and Germany have written to the Swiss Federal Council to relax these restrictions. 

Limited family reunions from May 11th

In an official statement issued by the Swiss Government, the Federal Council said entry restrictions into Switzerland would begin to be lifted. 

“For Swiss and EU citizens, family reunification in Switzerland will become possible again from 11 May. Border controls will however remain in place” said the statement. 

The statement did not provide any clarification as to whether residence permit holders of EU countries would be allowed to enter Switzerland for the purposes of family reunions, nor did it provide an indication as to the documentation needed to prove that entering Switzerland was being done for the purposes of visiting a family member. 

READ: Bars, restaurants and gyms in Switzerland to open sooner than expected so country 'can live with the virus'

Border control authorities have discretion as to whether they can allow someone to enter, the police confirmed to Swiss tabloid Blick on Thursday

The police said on Thursday that while this includes spouses, registered partners and children. Justice Department boss Karin Keller-Sutter emphasised during her press conference on Wednesday that visiting grandparents was not included in the scope of the relaxation. 

Tourism unlikely in either direction this summer

Relaxation of border controls for tourism in both directions however remain unlikely – even for later in the summer. 

Although there are likely to be some relaxations put into place from May 11th, all open Swiss borders will remain monitored and controlled into the future. 

Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis told Swiss residents that trips abroad this summer “”will probably be possible only to a limited extent or not at all”.

The Department of Justice stated that uncontrolled entry needed to be stopped, whether from tourists, uninvited guests or others who did not fit the entry criteria. 

Minister Keller-Sutter said she was coordinating efforts with her Schengen counterparts to ensure that border controls were maintained. 


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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