Is a second coronavirus lockdown in Switzerland inevitable?

The next phase in relating Switzerland’s coronavirus lockdown will take place on Monday, leading to concerns that infections - and deaths - will again increase.

Is a second coronavirus lockdown in Switzerland inevitable?
A closed off park in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland’s top scientist said on Thursday that a second lockdown was not inevitable, but warned the general public they would need to comply with social distancing and hygiene restrictions to avoid again spreading the virus. 

Marcel Tanner, President of the Academies of Sciences, told the Tagblatt that the country needed to do anything it could to avoid “devastating” second lockdown, including requiring all Swiss to wear masks. 

Switzerland rolls back coronavirus lockdown earlier than expected: What you need to know 

‘There cannot be a second lockdown’

Tanner said that the likelihood of a second lockdown would rise if the country started to think the battle had been won. 

He also said that the focus on the coronavirus tracing app as the country’s saviour was mislaid, saying that hygiene and social distancing rules would be as important in the summer as they have been in the early stages of the lockdown. 

“The focus on the app is wrong,” he said. 

“One of the basic conditions of the containment strategy is that we continue to maintain distance and hygiene measures… This existing backbone must not be lost.”

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

Tanner, a vaccines specialist, said some form of social distancing measures would need to remain in place as long as the virus was circulating in the community, i.e. until a vaccine was available for the virus. 

“We cannot carry out the lockdown cyclically so that the economy and society are turned on and off again and again – that’s harmful to both society and the economy. A disaster,” he said. 

“There cannot be a second complete lockdown.”

Could Switzerland implement a compulsory mask requirement? 

Unlike some of its neighbours, Switzerland has stopped short of putting in place a compulsory mask requirement. Indeed, masks aren’t even recommended for the broader population, with the government only encouraging the public to wear masks when they are sick. 

Tanner said he envisions masks being part of a longer-term lockdown exit strategy. 

“Then there may still be a second wave, but we can deal with it specifically by addressing the hotspots,” he said. 

“It could then happen that masks have to be worn on public transport or the right to visit is restricted again in certain nursing homes. But without all other homes being closed 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