BREAKING: Masks to be compulsory in Swiss public transport from Monday

Switzerland’s Federal Council will implement a mask requirement on all public transport from Monday, July 6th.

BREAKING: Masks to be compulsory in Swiss public transport from Monday
A man wearing a face mask uses a pedestrian crossing in front of Saint-Pierre Cathedral in Geneva on March 20, 2020. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In a press conference on Wednesday, the Swiss government announced the surprising turn – more than two months after masks were made compulsory on public transport in all of Switzerland’s neighbours. 

As yet, masks will not be compulsory in shops or supermarkets in Switzerland. 

In June, Switzerland put in place its first mask requirement which applies to protests. 

READ: Why did it take Switzerland so long to make masks compulsory?

'To avoid a second wave'

Switzerland has for months been reluctant to make masks compulsory, despite this being the case in Germany, Italy, France and Austria for months. 

Health Minister Alain Berset said during a press conference on Wednesday that the new requirement was needed, particularly with the continued increase in infection numbers across the country. 

“With the increasing numbers, we have observed a new trend: We find that the numbers are increasing slightly again. At the same time, the emergency is over and the cantons and the Confederation share responsibility for this development,” he said. 

“We found that our neighbouring countries have stricter rules than we do,” says Berset. “Because of the increasing number of cases, we have decided to introduce the national mask requirement to prevent a second wave in Switzerland.

“So far, we have weathered the situation well with the entire population. It is therefore very important that the distance and hygiene rules continue to be observed and that the contact details are given

“We stand together to continue fighting the epidemic.”

Why no immediate mask requirement? 

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga explained the five-day waiting period until the requirement came into place, saying it was necessary to give transit companies time to adapt. 

The transport companies need a minimal amount of time. It will take you a few days to implement this. Fines or sanctions are not distributed, but it is a duty to abide by the mask requirement.”

What modes of transport will it apply to?

The mask requirement will apply in all trains, trams, buses and on cable cars. Transport on ships and ferries will also be included. 

The mask requirement will not apply on ski lifts/chair lifts. 

Was a mistake made in waiting so long?

Asked at the press conference if the Swiss government erred in waiting to put the mask requirement in place, Berset said it was only necessary now as more and more people came back to using public transport. 

“When everything was closed, it made no sense to impose a mask,” he said.

“We never said that masks don't protect. Now that more people are on the road again, it makes sense to wear a mask where the distances cannot be maintained.

Why not in shops, clubs or elsewhere? 

Berset said it was the responsibility of the cantons to put in place mask requirements in nightclubs, while in shops masks would remain recommended rather than required. 

“With the clubs, responsibility now lies with the cantons. A mask requirement in the club is one possibility. Closing clubs is also a measure that the cantons can now take.”

“You can keep your distance in the fresh air, there is no need for a mask. Masks must be worn at demonstrations.”

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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