‘More than half don’t comply’: Switzerland announces stricter quarantine checks

With new figures showing less than half of those who arrive from high-risk countries actually enter quarantine, Switzerland has announced it will randomly check whether people are complying with the rule.

‘More than half don’t comply’: Switzerland announces stricter quarantine checks
A border control point at the Swiss border with Italy. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In early July, Switzerland announced a new quarantine requirement for all arrivals from high-risk countries. 

However, according to NZZ am Sonntag, less than half of the people returning from these countries actually self-quarantine. 

READ: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's quarantine requirement

Based on official numbers, the newspaper calculated that some 6,000 people arrived from countries at risk in recent weeks. But only 2,328 reported their return to cantonal health authorities and complied with the quarantine requirement.

The authorities initially said that informing the local health department of one’s return from a country at risk would be voluntary and based on individual and social responsibility.

Given the wide non-compliance with the quarantine rule, officials now say they will carry out random checks on flights and buses arriving in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Will Switzerland’s ‘self-enforced’ coronavirus quarantine actually work?

Patrick Mathys, the head of The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) told RTS television that passenger lists from 20 to 30 weekly flights arriving from risk countries are now being given to the cantons. 

Cantonal health offices will then follow up on the lists to ensure that travellers are quarantined.

“I think we need to send a signal that at least random checks are taking place”, said Basel cantonal doctor Thomas Steffen.

FOPH estimated that about 10 percent of coronavirus cases in Switzerland are imported by people returning from abroad.

'The situation could quickly get out of control'

Rudolf Hauri, one of Switzerland's top cantonal doctors, told the NZZ that more needed to be done to ensure arrivals were complying with the quarantine requirement. 

Hauri, from the canton of Zug, said travellers needed to understand the scope of their actions. 

“The need to understand that it can affect everyone” Hauri said. 

“If we can no longer maintain the current situation due to an increase in the number of infections, the situation could quickly get out of control.”

'High-risk countries'

The requirement was put in place for those returning to Switzerland from countries considered as unsafe because of the high number of Covid-19 infections there. 

These nations are Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Bolivia, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Chile, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Iraq, Israel, Qatar, Colombia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Moldova, North Macedonia, Oman, Panama, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Serbia, South Africa, Turks and Caicos Islands, and the United States.

People from these regions must inform local health authorities of their arrival in Switzerland and stay in quarantine at home for 10 days, without going out or receiving guests.


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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