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HEALTH

Coronavirus: What will and won’t be allowed to open in Switzerland on June 8th

On Wednesday, the Swiss government will announce its next wave of lockdown regulations. A document leaked to the Swiss media shows what will - and what won’t - be allowed.

Coronavirus: What will and won’t be allowed to open in Switzerland on June 8th
An empty restaurant in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

On Wednesday, May 27th, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset will announce which lockdown laws will be relaxed when the next easing of measures goes into effect on June 8th. 

According to Swiss news outlet Blick, who received a leaked copy of the next round of relaxations, they will include again allowing larger groups to meet as well as easing in schools, zoos and theatres. 

Swiss news outlet Watson reports that Berset is also set to end the state of emergency due to the low numbers of new and active infections. 

Groups, sporting events and demonstrations 

According to Blick, groups of up to 30 people will again be allowed to meet from June 8th. 

The maximum number will be higher for protests and for sporting events, with 300 people to be allowed to attend provided distancing and hygiene restrictions are adhered to. 

READ: Swiss brothels outline list of coronavirus-safe sex positions in a bid to end lockdown

This means organisers will need to ensure that a distance of two metres is kept between participants. 

Despite hopes that the limit would be extended to 1,000 people – as it was in the weeks before the stricter coronavirus lockdowns were put in place – this does not look likely in June. 

Nightclubs

As reported by the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset is expected to announce on Wednesday afternoon that the next round of lockdown relaxations, set to take place on June 8th, will include discos and nightclubs.

Although the risk of transmitting the coronavirus would appear high in nightclubs, the Swiss government is expected to require establishments to adhere to a range of distancing and hygiene rules. 

This is set to include a maximum of 300 people at each establishment, while the NZZ reports that patrons will also be expected to keep two metres apart at all times. 

Summer camps

Summer camps will again be allowed, provided they don’t exceed the maximum of 300 children. 

Restaurants: Data required but maximums scrapped

Pursuant to the current regulations, groups at restaurants in Switzerland cannot exceed four, and there is a voluntary requirement that all customers provide their data so that they can be tracked and contacted in the event of an outbreak. 

According to the report, the maximum of guests per table will be scrapped – but larger groups will be required to register, with the information of each attendee to be kept. 

Southern border outcome unclear

One further issue to be discussed at the meeting is the fate of Switzerland’s southern border. 

While Switzerland has announced the borders with Austria, Germany and France will be opened on June 15th, Italy unilaterally announced on May 17th that it would be opening its borders on the June 3rd – much to the surprise of Swiss authorities. 

Swiss authorities caught by surprise by the re-opening of Italy's borders 

According to Blick, Swiss authorities hope to open the borders in a uniform fashion on June 15th. However if Italy opens the border earlier, it would be possible for Swiss residents and citizens to cross into and back out of Italy from June 3rd. 

What will happen at Switzerland's southern border? Image: AFP

What else will be opening? 

As reported previously, June 8th will also see the reopening of tourist attractions such as mountain railways and boat tours, outdoor pools and wellness facilities, zoos and parks, cinemas, theatres, concerts and casinos. 

Switzerland’s top-flight football competition – the Swiss Super League – will be allowed to resume from June 8th. 

 

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HEALTH

How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Switzerland’s health infrastructure is consistently rated among the best in the world, but how does it compare with other countries?

How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Whether in terms of politics, social system or economy, the Swiss often chart their own course, which fundamentally diverges from that of its European neighbours.

Healthcare is no exception.

The differences lie primarily in who finances the scheme — public versus private — and how the overall system functions.

Like much of the European Union, Switzerland has a universal health system, which means everyone in the country is covered by insurance and has access to medical care.

In most countries, the government typically has control, to a lesser or greater extent, over funding, health insurance, and health providers.

In France, for instance, most healthcare costs are covered by the state healthcare system, known as assurance maladie, and this is funded by taxes – healthcare costs account for about 13 percent of the average person’s gross salary.

In Germany, health costs are shared by employers and workers, with employees paying 7.5 percent of their salaries into a public health insurance fund, and companies matching that amount.

Italy’s national, system, called the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or simply SSN, which is financed mainly though federal and regional taxes, automatically covers all residents. Medical care is largely free of charge at the point of service.

Public healthcare also exists in Austria, with certain portions of salaries being automatically deducted to fund the scheme. However, healthcare is free of charge for low-income people or those who who are disabled, studying, or retired.

Although no longer part of the EU, the UK health system is also based on state healthcare via the NHS. It is funded by taxes which account for about 4.5 percent of the average citizens’ gross income.

What about Switzerland?

The system here is fundamentally different in that it is not tax-based or financed by employers, but rather by individuals themselves.

Everyone must have a basic health insurance coverage and purchase it from one of dozens of private carriers.

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian — is compulsory in Switzerland. It doesn’t come cheap — premiums are based on the canton of residence and age, costing 300 to 400 francs a month on average — but it is quite comprehensive; it includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

There are no employer-sponsored or state-run insurance programmes, and the government’s only role is to ensure that all insurance companies offer the same basic coverage to everyone and that they have the same pricing.

While companies can’t compete on prices or benefits offered by the basic compulsory insurance — which are defined by the Health Ministry — they can, and do, compete on supplemental polices which offer perks not included in the basic coverage.

READ MORE: What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

All policies have deductibles (also called co-pays) that can range from 300 to 2,500 francs a year.

After the deductible is reached, 90 percent of all medical costs will be covered by insurance, with 10 percent being paid by the patient; however, this co-pay is capped at 700 francs a year for adults and 350 francs for children under 18.

The government does subsidise healthcare for the low-income individuals and households – defined as those for whom insurance premiums exceed 10 percent of their income.

What percentage of a person’s income goes to health insurance premiums?

This depends on wages and premiums, for instance, whether a person chose the cheapest option with a high deductible or the expensive one with a 300-franc deductible.

Generally speaking, however, based on the average monthly income of just over 7,000 francs, about 6.5 percent is spent on premiums.

What happens if you don’t take out an health insurance policy?

Anyone who arrives in  Switzerland must get insured within three months. If you don’t, the government will choose one for you and send you the bill. If this happens you may end up with more expensive premiums than you might have gotten if you shopped around yourself.

If you are still delinquent on your payments, your healthcare will be restricted to emergencies only; any other non-urgent medical treatment will be denied, unless you pay for it out of pocket.

The pros and cons of the Swiss system

Let’s look at the ‘cons’ first. Basically, there is one: the cost.

Not only are insurance premiums high and steadily increasing, but, at 7,179 francs per capita, Switzerland has the third most expensive healthcare scheme in the world — behind only the United States ($12,318) and Germany ($7,383).

Unlike taxpayer-funded models, there is no price grading according to income, so people on a low income pay a high proportion of their income for healthcare than higher earners. 

However, the system is generally efficient, has an extensive network of doctors, as well as well-equipped hospitals and clinics.

Patients are free to choose their own doctor and usually have unlimited access to specialists.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to see a specialist doctor in Switzerland without a referral

Waiting lists for medical treatments are relatively short.

According to a survey by the Organisation  for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD) on how long patients in various countries typically wait for an appointment with a specialist, the share of people in Switzerland waiting a month or more is 23 percent, compared to 36 percent in France, 52 percent in Sweden, and 61 percent in Norway.

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