Swiss funeral directors left with extra coffins after coronavirus panic buying

Switzerland produced twice as many coffins as usual during the coronavirus pandemic. A lower than expected death rate means some funeral homes now having ten times their usual amount.

Swiss funeral directors left with extra coffins after coronavirus panic buying
Photo: By Nabokov at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0,

Funeral homes in Switzerland have a problem – although in the scheme of things, it’s a good one to have. 

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Swiss funeral homes looked to stock up on coffins in order to prepare for a spike in deaths as the virus spread. 

With the death rate lower than expected, they are now stuck with an oversupply which may take years to get through. 

‘Getting through them is impossible’

During March, funeral homes across the country over ordered on coffins after seeing infections and death counts spiral in neighbouring Italy. 

While the pandemic still had a devastating effect on much of Switzerland, the country’s effective handling of the crisis meant that infection and death rates did not reach Italy levels. 

Funeral director and coffin producer Beni Hochuli told Swiss daily 20 Minutes that getting through them “is impossible”. 

“To accommodate them, you need an entire gym,” he said. 

Funeral director Kevin Huguenin told 20 Minutes that his company ordered 400 coffins at the start of the pandemic, despite usually only having around 40 in stock. 

“This is very unusual,” Hugeinin said. 

At the start of the outbreak, Hugeinin told 20 Minutes that he hoped death rates would remain low – but said it was important to be prepared for the worst.

“We are well prepared and could handle a big rush. A high number of deaths would also not be a problem” he said. 

Did Swiss funeral homes panic buy? 

While the outbreak of the pandemic saw people panic buying toilet paper and pasta, few thought that coffins would be subject to a similar rush. 

However Hochuli said he saw the glut coming. 

“At the beginning of the crisis, I too felt the huge demand,” he said. 

“Even then I found this panic buying a little exaggerated.”


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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