Coronavirus: Restrictions to remain on Swiss-Italian border ‘until further notice’

The Swiss Federal Council affirmed on Tuesday that it will not be opening the border with Italy on Wednesday, despite the Italian government promising to do so.

Coronavirus: Restrictions to remain on Swiss-Italian border ‘until further notice’
A sign on the Italy-Switzerland border. Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP

The Swiss government was surprised in mid-May when Italy decided unilaterally to open its borders on June 3rd, without consulting its northern neighbour. 

In a statement on Tuesday, June 2nd, the Federal Council said it would not be swayed by Italy’s decision and the border will remain closed to arrivals from Italy until further notice. 

The impact of the decision will mean that although people from the Swiss side of the border will be able to travel into Italy, those hoping to cross the border from the Italian side into Switzerland will be turned away. 

On May 29th, Swiss authorities warned residents against ‘premature travel to Italy’

Francesco Quattrini, the foreign affairs delegate from the southern canton of Ticino, said on Tuesday that residents should avoid travelling to Italy. 

The only Italian citizens who are authorised to enter the country at the moment are the 70,000 cross-border G-permit holders who commute to their jobs in Switzerland, or anyone holding Swiss citizenship or residency. 

Switzerland hopes for ‘uniform border reopening’ 

Currently, Switzerland is planning on reopening its borders with neighbours Germany, France and Austria on June 15th

While no agreement has been set in place for when the Swiss border will be opened to arrivals from Italy, the Federal Council has indicated it hopes to also open the border with Italy on the 15th and thereby secure a uniform border relaxation with all of its neighbours. 

In mid-May, Swiss Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter said the main reason for the delay in coming to an agreement with Italy was the serious situation in that country, particularly in the north. 

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


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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