Coronavirus in Switzerland: German, French and Austrian borders to reopen in mid-June

From June 15th, Germany, France and Austria will open their borders with Switzerland - providing coronavirus infections remain under control.

Coronavirus in Switzerland: German, French and Austrian borders to reopen in mid-June
German policemen along the Swiss-German border. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

The relaxation only relates to the border controls put in place by Germany, France and Austria. 

It means that people will be able to leave Switzerland and enter Germany, France and Austria. But those in Germany, France and Austria will not be able to freely cross the border to Switzerland.

As yet, Switzerland has not indicated a concrete date when it will relax its border controls – although Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter has said she would hope to do so “in the coming weeks”. 

The announcement comes with a major caveat however – that infection rates from the coronavirus remain low on both sides of the border. 

The Swiss Justice and Police Department (FDJP) said on Wednesday that an agreement had been reached with German authorities around the reopening of the German side of the border. Confirmations with Austrian and French authorities followed. 

Swiss authorities said they did not yet have an indication as to when Italy would reopen its borders.  


Switzerland’s borders “to open earlier than expected”

Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said on Tuesday that she hoped to open Switzerland’s borders to visitors from Austria, Germany and France “earlier than expected”. 

While no concrete deadline was given, Keller-Sutter indicated that border controls would be lifted “in the coming weeks”. 

In a press conference on Wednesday, Keller-Sutter said she was “striving for border openings in both directions by June 15th”. 

“The talks with the foreign ministers have shown that we want to get back to normal at the border as soon as possible, if the epidemiological situation allows it. We are aiming for full border opening on June 15 between Germany, Austria, France and Switzerland.”

As reported by Swiss media outlet 20 Minutes, this is expected to include all of Switzerland’s borders besides the southern border with hard-hit Italy, which would likely be delayed. 

A spokesperson for the Minister said Keller-Sutter had been working diligently with German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Christophe Castaner from the French government and the Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer.

“Everyone wants the border situation to normalise as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson said. 

Infection rates to be monitored

In order for the relaxations to come into effect, coronavirus infection rates will need to remain low. 

Authorities will monitor the rates on both sides of the border in order to allow a reopening. 

The guideline in Germany is more than 50 infections per 100,000 in the population. 

Germany announced that further relaxations of controls with its borders would be put in place from midnight on Saturday, particularly with the country’s border with Luxembourg. 

According to Swiss news agency 20 Minutes, German border controls with Switzerland, France and Austria will no longer be systematically checked but will be subject to random controls only from this weekend onwards, before officially ending on June 15th.

Border controls will also be relaxed between Germany and Austria at midnight on Saturday. 

Editor's note: In the initial press conference on May 13th, only Germany and Austria were included in the opening plan. The story was amended to account for France's later inclusion on May 14th. 

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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