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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

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs

Swiss health costs have been rising in recent years, with further spikes, including in insurance premiums, seen as inevitable. The government is proposing measures to counter this upward trend.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs

Based on the information released by Santésuisse, an umbrella group for health insurance companies, an overall increase of around 4 percent for 2023 will be the norm.

Unfortunately for the consumers, who are already hard-hit by rising energy costs, premiums for compulsory health insurance will likely rise by an average of 5 percent in the fall, according to online price comparison site, Comparis.

And many people could even see their premiums soar by more than 10 percent in 2023 — the sharpest hike in premiums in 20 years.

The exact amounts of premiums for all policyholders will be released by the end of October.

The price hikes are not a new phenomenon per se: over the past 20 years, costs have risen at twice the rate of economic growth, resulting in health insurance premiums that are 90 percent higher than in 2002.

READ MORE: How spiralling costs are jeopardising Switzerland’s healthcare system

Why have these costs been increasing so much?

Part of the reason is the fact that people in Switzerland have a high life expectancy, but as they get older, they tend to suffer from chronic, cost-intensive diseases.

The more recent hikes can be attributed to higher medical costs incurred during the two years of coronavirus pandemic, estimated to cost insurers over one billion francs so far, not even taking into account about 265 million spent for Covid vaccinations in 2021.

Add to that the cost (paid for by the government) of Covid tests, as well as booster shots administered in 2022, and those still to be given once Switzerland rolls out second doses in 2023.

How will the government cut these costs?

Santésuisse has been urging the Federal Council to implement a range of reforms to reduce costs and ensure that not so many are passed on to consumers. 

On Wednesday, authorities announced a package of measures aimed at controlling costs. “These measures will improve medical care and contain rising costs in the healthcare system”, the Federal Council said.

Coordinated networks

These care networks are seen as a way to reduce unnecessary medical services. 

“They bring together health professionals from several disciplines to provide ‘all-in-one’ medical care. They improve coordination throughout the treatment chain, for example when various specialists are caring for an elderly person with several chronic diseases”, Federal Council said in a statement.

Hospitals, pharmacies, and various therapists would be attached to the network, and all treatments “will be invoiced at once, as if it were a single supplier”.

Right now, all service providers invoice insurance carriers separately, which adds to administrative costs; the new system is also believed to provide a better oversight and control, and eliminate unnecessary or redundant medical treatments, Health Minister Alain Berset said during a press conference in Bern on Wednesday.

Faster and cheaper access to medicines

The government also wants to guarantee “fast and as inexpensive as possible access to expensive innovative medicines”.

To achieve this, it wants to “anchor in the law” an already widely-used practice: to conclude pricing agreements with pharmaceutical companies. It would mean that drug manufacturers would have to reimburse a portion of the price to insurers.

“This measure makes it possible to guarantee rapid access to these drugs, while limiting their price”, authorities said.

Electronic invoicing

Another measure will require all providers of inpatient and outpatient services to send their invoices to insurance companies in electronic form — seen as a quicker, more effective and cheaper way to transmit billing information.

These measures “will make it possible to curb the rise in costs,” the Federal Council said, adding that “it is not yet possible to estimate the concrete extent of these savings, which would depend on how the health system will implement the measures”.

It is now up to the MPs to debate these proposals.

READ MORE: Why Swiss health premiums are set to rise — and what you can do about it

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