‘Only those with plastic visors were infected’: Swiss government warns against face shields

After a coronavirus outbreak where only those wearing plastic visors were infected, the Swiss government has said plastic shields are inadequate protection and should only be worn in combination with a face mask.

‘Only those with plastic visors were infected’: Swiss government warns against face shields
Findings from Switzerland show face shields provide little protection for wearers or for others. Photo: ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

Health officials in the canton of Graubünden studying a recent outbreak among staff at a hotel found a worrying trend – all of those who were infected wore plastic face shields, while those who avoided infection wore face masks. 

Several employees of the hotel tested positive along with a guest. 

Rudolf Leuthold, head of the cantonal health department in Graubünden, said the face shields were the common denominator in infections.

“It has been shown that only those employees who had plastic visors were infected. There was not a single infection among employees with a mask.” 

Leuthold told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes that a guest of the hotel was also infected: “We know that the guest was served by employees with plastic visors.” 

Government warns against plastic face shields

On Tuesday, the cantonal health authorities in Graubünden spoke out against plastic face shields

Cantonal doctor Marina Jamnicki said not only are plastic face shields less effective than face masks, they may provide wearers with a false sense of security. 

Plastic face shields should be worn in tandem with a face mask, say cantonal authorities.

The Federal Office of Public Health agreed on Wednesday, pointing to increased infections among those who wear face shields. 

Spokesman Yann Hulmann told 20 Minutes “the visors do not serve as an alternative to hygiene masks. Visors can be worn with masks to further enhance your own protection.” 

The federal government is considering amending the rules for hospitality workers to require masks, although an announcement will only be made pursuant to a review. 

Swiss officials in late July reiterated that plastic visors are no replacement for face masks in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Daniel Dauwalder, spokesperson for the Federal Office of Public Health, told The Local that the government's official position was that visors are “no substitute for face masks”.

“They protect the eyes from possible infection through droplets, but the possibility of infection via the nose or mouth cannot be excluded,” Dauwalder said.

“Visors only serve as a complementary form of protection measure in conjunction with a mask.”


Member comments

  1. This is a very misleading headline and will embolden anti-maskers.
    PLEASE correct the headline to “Swiss government has said plastic shields are inadequate protection and should only be worn in combination with a face mask.” or similar.
    this is Irresponsible in such a dangerous pandemic.

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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