Masks should be worn in air-conditioned offices, Swiss experts say

Now that much of Switzerland’s workforce has switched from home work to office, employees may be at risk of being contaminated with the Covid-19 virus, health experts say.

Masks should be worn in air-conditioned offices, Swiss experts say
Masks should be worn in air-conditioned offices, experts say. Photo by AFP

According to Christian Garzoni, an infectious disease specialist and a member of the federal commission for the preparation and management of pandemics, air conditioning systems spread the virus by moving the air around the room or simply recycling it instead of replacing it.

Even social distancing of 1.5 metres would not prevent the transmission.

“If someone sits three metres from me, air conditioning can transport the cloud of particles to my workspace,” he said.

He added that when a person infected with coronavirus speaks, coughs or sneezes, they project microdroplets up to eight metres away. This contaminated 'cloud' can remain suspended in the air for several minutes.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Switzerland uses 3.5 million face masks per day

His expert group found that while speaking for one minute, an infected person can spread some 1,000 contaminated droplets through the air, which can stay in suspension for up to eight minutes. 

“Studies show that coronavirus can be transmitted by aerosols, especially in poorly ventilated rooms”, Garzoni pointed out. 

To prevent, or at least curb, the contamination through the air, Garzoni said that masks should be worn in poorly ventilated, confined spaces.

For that reason, “wearing a mask in the office is essential”, he added.

Masks are currently obligatory on all public transportation in Switzerland, as well as on all SWISS flights.

They are also required in shops in cantons of Vaud and Jura.

And last week cantons of Basel, Aargau and Solothurn, made them compulsory in all nightclubs


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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