How coronavirus has spread through German-speaking Switzerland

New figures show how coronavirus infections have spread through Switzerland’s German-speaking cantons.

How coronavirus has spread through German-speaking Switzerland
A coronavirus test at Basel's EuroAirport. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Despite escaping the worst of the pandemic in the early months, coronavirus has made a resurgence through Switzerland’s German-speaking cantons in recent weeks. 

New figures produced by health authorities in several cantons have shed light on how people in the canton have become infected with the virus. 

UPDATE: Families, not nightclubs, are the biggest sources of Covid-19 infections in Switzerland 

The information comes after the Swiss government was forced to backtrack on an announcement that most new infections across the country came from nightclubs, bars and restaurants, before releasing updated, accurate information which showed most people were infected by family members. 

Infections primarily take place at home

In Zurich, the source of new infections is much the same – with almost half coming in the home. 

In total, 48 percent of Zurich’s infections came in a person’s own household, followed by 15 percent at work, 11 percent from friends and family and eight percent in international travel. 

Five percent came from elderly homes and four percent in creches. Only four percent came from restaurants and two percent from bars or clubs – a significantly lower figure to that provided last week. 

The figures also showed that the majority of new infections were from unknown sources (65 percent) compared to those who knew where their infections came from (35 percent). 

The figures are similar in almost all of the cantons surveyed, with Basel's 38 percent infection rate from international travel a major outlier. 


!function(e,i,n,s){var t=”InfogramEmbeds”,d=e.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0];if(window[t]&&window[t].initialized)window[t].process&&window[t].process();else if(!e.getElementById(n)){var o=e.createElement(“script”);o.async=1,,o.src=””,d.parentNode.insertBefore(o,d)}}(document,0,”infogram-async”);


The Swiss government came under fire for releasing the inaccurate information. 

Christoph Ris from the Bar and Club Commission in Bern told Swiss media outlet Watson that the government had “dragged an entire industry through the mud” in suggesting that clubs were a major infection source. 

Nationwide figures

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said on July 31st that 42 percent of infections recorded in Switzerland over the past two weeks happened in nightclubs, and a further 27 percent in bars and restaurants.

Dozens of people in various regions of Switzerland have tested positive and hundreds are under preventive quarantine after contaminations that happened at the so-called 'superspreader' events in bars and nightclubs.

The most recent one occurred last week in Fribourg, where 240 people are quarantined after being exposed to infected individuals.

A coronavirus test at Basel's EuroAirport. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

However, on Sunday the FOPH retracted its previous statement, saying it had made a mistake in its calculations. 

Most coronavirus transmissions happened through contacts with infected family members rather than at clubs, discos, and other nightlife venues, the FOPH said. It also apologised “for the erroneous information” it published last week.

Les clubs et les restaurants ne sont pas les principales sources d'infection en juillet. L'OFSP présente ses excuses pour l'affichage erroné des lieux de contamination. Entre-temps, les chiffres corrects sont indiqués sur son site:

— BAG – OFSP – UFSP (@BAG_OFSP_UFSP) August 2, 2020

Of the 793 clinical reports that FOPH received from cantonal health offices between July 16th and August 1st, the highest number of infections, 216, occurred within the family.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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