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Tourism despite coronavirus: Swiss can holiday in Germany, France and Austria this summer

Switzerland’s justice minister has declared that Swiss residents will again be allowed to holiday in Germany, France and Austria from June 15th.

Tourism despite coronavirus: Swiss can holiday in Germany, France and Austria this summer
People in traditional Bavarian dress in front of Germany's castle Neuschwanstein. Photo: KARL-JOSEF HILDENBRAND / DPA / AFP

In a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said residents of Switzerland would again be allowed to holiday abroad in Germany, France and Austria when the borders re-open on June 15th. 

Tourism again possible

Keller-Sutter said while she encouraged everyone in Switzerland to travel domestically to boost the country’s struggling tourism industry, she said travellers would again be allowed to cross the country’s northern and eastern borders this summer. 

“Tourism will be possible as soon as the borders are open again. But I encourage the Swiss to stay here and support tourism in Switzerland.” 

Coronavirus in Switzerland: German and Austrian borders to be reopened on June 15th

As for border entries in the other direction – i.e. from Germany, France and Austria as well as other countries into Switzerland – Keller-Sutter said she was hopeful a plan would be worked out soon, however the country was wary of opening the borders at this stage. 

“The talks with the foreign ministers of these countries 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.”

“Switzerland does not want a unilateral border opening. I am therefore pleased that I was able to communicate with my colleagues from neighbouring countries.”

France now included, Italy set to wait

Keller-Sutter said on Tuesday that although only Germany and Austria were currently included in the border relaxation,. there would be an agreement on the coming weekend regarding France. 

“For the time being, (the June 15th opening) only affects Germany and Austria – but we are also trying to find a solution with France.”

Swiss media reports that France's inclusion is a formality – meaning Swiss residents will also be able to head west this summer. 

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The border with Italy however looked likely to remain closed for a longer period of time.

“Of course, my department is also in contact with Italy. The fact that Italy is still missing has to do with the fact that the situation there is still different than in Germany, Austria or France. 

“Freedom of travel is still severely restricted within Italy.

“Austria is also facing the same situation (of opening borders to the north but not to Italy).”

Italy, particularly the north of the country, has been one of the countries heaviest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, with the second-most deaths and the third most cases in Europe. 

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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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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