‘Just four percent’ of Swiss residents have contracted coronavirus

Just under one in 20 - or four percent - of the Swiss population have been infected with the coronavirus, a study has found.

'Just four percent' of Swiss residents have contracted coronavirus
A public transport employee hands out face masks in Lausanne. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The relatively low infection rate shows that Switzerland remains vulnerable to a second wave of the virus. 

The findings come from a study, completed by ETH Lausanne, which looked at infection data from 12 Swiss cantons. 

A total of 3.9 percent of the population is estimated to have been infected, although the rate varies significantly from canton to canton. 

READ: What are the latest predictions in Switzerland about a second wave of Covid-19?

Bern’s rate of infection was the lowest in the study, with only 1.9 percent infected with the virus. 

Conversely, 16 percent of the population in Ticino have been infected. Ticino, which borders hard-hit northern Italy, has the highest per capita death rate from the virus of any Swiss canton. 

Geneva also showed a high rate of infection, with 11 percent of people in the western canton infected. 

Photo: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne 



Mo’ mobility, mo’ problems

Although low rates of infection make a community more vulnerable to a resurgence of the virus, the findings show that mobility rather than immunity was a key factor in its spread. 

READ: Switzerland warns against ‘premature' travel to Italy

When lockdown measures were put in place to limit mobility, transmission rates across the cantons dropped from between 50 to 90 percent. 

This means that the behaviour of the population is the key factor in the spread of the virus, rather than immunity. 


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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