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HEALTH

Coronavirus: Where are Switzerland’s new hotspots?

After several weeks with cases in double or even single digits, coronavirus cases continue to rise across Switzerland. But which cantons are hardest hit?

Coronavirus: Where are Switzerland's new hotspots?
Coronavirus cases are increasing in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

From May 1st until July 1st, new coronavirus infections in Switzerland remained in double or even single digits. 

From then on however, new infections in Switzerland have regularly cracked the 100 barrier. 

READ MORE: Why is the number of Covid-19 infections rising in Switzerland? 

Geneva and Graubünden have seen significant increases, replacing Zurich and Aargau as Switzerland’s new coronavirus hotspots. 

Geneva the hardest hit

The western canton of Geneva has been the hardest hit in recent weeks, with new infections rising sharply.

Geneva has recorded 206 new infections in the past seven days, a rate of 58 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants. 

Based on population figures, if Geneva were a country, it would be just below the Swiss government’s threshold for ‘high-risk’ countries that require a ten-day quarantine on arrival. 

READ MORE: Which cantons are worst at enforcing coronavirus measures? 

Cantonal officials point out that the immediate risk is less significant as those infected are primarily younger, however the risk of infecting a person in a vulnerable category remains high. 

On Tuesday, July 28th, Geneva put in place compulsory mask requirements in shops and in the Geneva Airport. 

Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Infections in Graubünden also high

Graubünden has also seen an increase in new infections and now has a rate of 31 per 100,000 inhabitants – just over half that in Geneva. 

As reported in The Local Switzerland in mid-July, officials in the canton were concerned about a number of infections in the hospitality sector – particularly among people who were wearing plastic visors rather than face masks. 

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

Declining infections in Zurich and Aargau

There was some good news however, with infections declining in Aargau and Zurich.

The northern cantons’ high infection rates saw them become coronavirus hotspots in late June and early July, after avoiding the worst of the pandemic during its peak in March and April. 

Other than Graubünden and Geneva, no Swiss canton has an infection rate above 20 per 100,000 people. The Swiss average is 17 per 100,000 people.

Why are infections on the rise? 

Authorities said that thousands of people arrived from countries at risk in recent weeks. But only less than half reported their return to cantonal health authorities and complied with the quarantine requirement.

Additionally, large-scale venues like clubs, where the distance rule cannot be observed, “are also infection hotspots”, he added.

Numerous cases of coronavirus had been identified in bars and clubs in several cantons, in what has become known as ‘superspreader’ events. 

“The number of new cases is extremely important because it’s the earliest indication of the pandemic”, Antoine Flahault, the director of the Global Health Institute at the University of Geneva, , said in a YouTube video published by Le Temps newspaper.

The recent increase in the number of contaminations can be attributed to the lifting of various post-confinement restrictions, including freedom of movement and travel, Flahault pointed out.

But there is another reason too: more testing.

“The more tests are done, the more cases will be discovered”, he said.

He added that Switzerland went from about 3,000 daily tests at the beginning of June to 10,000 at the beginning of July.

“This explains, at least party, the increase in the number of cases in recent weeks”.

 

 

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HEALTH

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
 

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