R-Rate climbs above 1.5 as Switzerland battles several coronavirus outbreaks

Switzerland’s coronavirus reproduction rate (R-Rate) has risen above 1.5 on the back of a dramatic increase in testing as the country comes to grips with several new outbreaks.

R-Rate climbs above 1.5 as Switzerland battles several coronavirus outbreaks
A bird flies in front of Geneva's famous Jet d'Eau. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Figures from Tuesday have shown that the coronavirus r-rate – the crucial metric which showcases how the virus is spreading through the community – has risen above 1.5. 

The estimated rate, based on figures from the first two weeks in June, shows that the virus is transmitting at between 1.4 and 1.8 in Switzerland. 

The R-Rate in Switzerland rose above 1 on June 18th and has climbed steadily ever since. 



The number of newly detected infections has been on the rise in Switzerland in recent days, averaging more than 50 after being in single figures at the start of June. 

New outbreaks

There have been a number of new 'outbreak events' in Switzerland, including the much-publicised 'superspreader' event which put 300 people into quarantine after visiting a Zurich nightclub. 

Authorities on Tuesday said they would be closing the club down temporarily

In another incident, a group of men returning from Serbia arrived in Graübunden before testing positive for the virus. As a result, 73 people were quarantined in the canton. 

An increase in testing

The number of coronavirus tests has been on the increase in Switzerland, reflecting both the growing concern about the virus along with a policy change which saw the Swiss government cover the costs of anyone’s coronavirus test if they had received a warning notification via the app. 

“Since the tests are free, we have been overwhelmed,” Frank Bally, deputy cantonal doctor from Valais, told Swiss media outlet 20 Minutes

“Entire companies that have had a positive case want to send their employees – even those without symptoms – to get tested.”

Due to the two-week lag, the increases in testing seen recently have not contributed to the rising R-Rate. 

It is not until early July when the impact of the latest round of lockdown relaxations – which took place on June 22nd – will be detectable. 

What is the R number anyway?

The basic reproduction number is one way of analysing a disease's ability to spread. It represents the average number of people that a person with coronavirus will pass the virus onto.

An R0 (R naught or R zero) of 1 means that each person infected with the virus is passing it on to one other person. Experts have said that the novel coronavirus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, has a reproduction number of between 2 and 3, but there is debate and different estimates on this.

Amr Aswad, an evolutionary virologist based at Berlin's Free University told The Local Germany the R value is “a very important number”.

“It's one that's generated through modelling so different models might give you slightly different answers. But fundamentally, as we all know, we need to keep it below 1.”

However, there are other ways to measure how the disease is spreading, such as the number of infections.

“The R0 tells you a lot but it's not the complete picture and it should always be considered alongside the absolute number of infections,” said Aswad.


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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