‘No single outbreak’: How coronavirus entered Switzerland

Swiss researchers have found several diverse strains of Covid-19 in the community, showing that the virus must have been introduced into the country from a variety of sources.

‘No single outbreak’: How coronavirus entered Switzerland
A nurse with a serological test for Covid-19. Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

Swiss bio mathematician Tanja Stadler, who completed the study, found that the virus was imported to Switzerland from a variety of locations. 

The researchers collected 1000 DNA samples from positive coronavirus tests, with the number eventually whittled down to 120 samples – many of which had diverse genome sequences. 

‘No single Swiss outbreak’

Studies into samples from coronavirus-infected patients has shown that there were several outbreaks of the virus in Switzerland, i.e. that it did not come primarily from one source. 

In an online lecture on Tuesday, Sadler said “there was no single Swiss outbreak”. 

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“The viruses were imported into Switzerland from a wide variety of locations – and there is also no evidence of infections in individual cantons.”

The study looked at the genome sequences of the samples of the virus, finding there was a significant amount of diversity. 

The testing process has been done as a part of the Next Strain project, which looks to assess the evolution of Covid-19 in the population. 

In addition to understanding aspects of the spread of the virus, the project allows researchers to see how it has changed and evolved over time – for example to become more infectious. 

The research also indicates that the virus is likely to have been circulating in Switzerland for days or even weeks before the first case was detected in the southern canton of Ticino on February 25th. 

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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