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Coronavirus crisis costing Swiss economy 11-17 billion francs per month

Switzerland's central bank chief said in an interview published by Swiss media Sunday that the coronavirus crisis was costing the Swiss economy up to $17 billion each month.

Coronavirus crisis costing Swiss economy 11-17 billion francs per month
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The head of the Swiss National Bank, Thomas Jordan, said the crisis surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic was weighing heavily on the Swiss economy, which was currently functioning at just 70-80 percent of its normal level.

“You have to go back to the oil crisis of the 1970s to find such a collapse of growth,” he told the Tamedia group in an interview published by several Swiss papers Sunday.

The impact of the widespread measures put in place in the Alpine nation to halt the spread of the virus was running up “enormous” costs, he said, “to the tune of 11-17 billion Swiss francs ($11.3-$17.5 billion, 10.4-16.1 billion euros) each month.”

Jordan cautioned that the public debt would swell, as would costs linked to unemployment insurance and to the subsidies provided to businesses to keep them afloat, pushing Switzerland towards a significant deficit this year.

The Le Matin Dimanche and SonntagsZeitung weeklies calculated Sunday that Switzerland in all should dish out some 100 billion to mitigate the effects of the crisis.

They pointed out that in April joblessness surged 43 percent compared to the same month in 2019 with some two million people, out of a population of 8.5 million, drawing partial unemployment benefits.

Switzerland has stopped short of ordering full confinement, but introduced a range of emergency measures in mid-March, including closing restaurants and most other businesses, to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The wealthy Alpine nation, which has counted more than 1,500 deaths and over 30,000 infections from COVID-19, has gradually begun lifting measures, with restaurants, shops and schools due to open Monday.

Jordan said the loosening of confinement measures was vital, stressing the need to step up economic activity to keep a handle on the rising debt levels.

“It makes sense that the gradual deconfinement should start now,” he said, insisting that Switzerland's essential education, health and retirement systems “rest on the stability of our economy.”

Jordan said the central bank had been busy intervening in foreign exchange markets to stabilise the value of the Swiss franc which is considered a refuge currency in times of crisis.

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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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