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HEALTH

Coronavirus: When will Swiss residents be able to cross into the EU again?

For many, crossing the Swiss-EU border has been an afterthought for years. When will Swiss residents again be able to do so?

Coronavirus: When will Swiss residents be able to cross into the EU again?
A boy playing on barriers near Switzerland's border with France on the outskirts of Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Whether for family reunions – or even just for a spot of cross-border shopping – the closure of borders with European Union countries has hit some Swiss residents hard. 

With border controls absent for years, crossing the border to visit friends or to go shopping was for many a daily occurrence. Families, too, have been separated by the imposition of coronavirus border controls. 

For families, despite some slight relaxations by the Swiss government on May 11th, in many cases border crossings for family reunions remain prohibited – or are up to the discretion of border guards. 

Recent statements from the EU however indicate the loosening of border controls is unlikely until mid-June. Switzerland is particularly affected due to its proximity – and shared border with – northern Italy. 

READ: Switzerland reopens 15 border crossings on Monday, May 11th

EXPLAINER: Who can enter Switzerland from May 11th? 

Flags along the Swiss border near Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Crossing from Switzerland into the EU

Switzerland shares a border with the EU nations of Italy, France, Germany and Austria, all of which have put in place border controls since the coronavirus outbreak. 

Liechtenstein also shares a border but has not had border controls put in place with Switzerland. 

Late on Monday, the European Commission indicated that borders are likely to remain tight until at least mid-June. 

As reported in the Handelsblatt, the EU Commission is developing a plan according to which borders will be opened. This plan is likely to be released on Wednesday. 

This is likely to happen pursuant to conditions however – including that coronavirus infections remain low. 

“As the health situation gradually improves, the balance should change towards full freedom of movement for people,” the draft statement reads. 

Cross-border shopping restricted

The high price of goods in Switzerland means plenty of Swiss residents cross the border to go shopping regularly – something that has not been possible for two months. 

This has had a devastating effect on border regions which have become economically reliant on Swiss shoppers. 

As reported in 20 Minutes on Tuesday, Swiss residents spend an estimate 10 billion francs per year shopping in border regions – an amount which has dried up since the border closures. 

One silver lining has been the benefit to the Swiss economy, with local retailers seeing a boost to their bottom lines as a result of the border closure. 

A collection of 15 mayors from southern Germany have begun a campaign to push for the border with Switzerland to be reopened. However, while this may be relaxed for families in the coming weeks, cross-border shopping is likely to remain restricted until at least June. 

Switzerland itself restricted crossing the border for the purposes of shopping – even if the person crossing the border held valid entry documents (i.e. work permit) – from April 16th, 2020. 

 

 

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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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