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‘We were yelled at’: Foreign residents in Switzerland speak of mask abuse

One in ten readers of The Local have been insulted or abused for wearing masks on public transport in Switzerland.

'We were yelled at': Foreign residents in Switzerland speak of mask abuse
People wearing masks on public transport in Switzerland. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Masks have been compulsory in public transport in Switzerland since July 6th. 

In a poll conducted by The Local Switzerland from late July to early August, ten percent of our readers told us they had faced abuse for wearing a mask. 

Some had been abused for wearing masks before the requirement came into place, while others found themselves the target of insults more recently. 

Image: The Local Switzerland/Google

‘Irresponsible’ 

One said they were “stared at and given dirty looks for wearing a mask” while another said “It seems people think or look at you as if it is laughable that you are using masks.”

One reader, Steve M from Argentina, was accused of being ‘irresponsible’ for wearing a mask. 

“Some people were trying to lecture me for wearing a mask, staring, or directly implying I was being irresponsible for wearing a mask.”

READ: Everything you need to know about Switzerland's new compulsory mask requirement 

Balazs H, from Hungary, said he saw people abused for refusing to wear masks on a Swiss Air flight but that the staff did nothing. 

“Ön Swiss air where passengers refused to wear and airline didn’t do anything.”

Max, from Canada, said while there were some mask skeptics in Switzerland, there were also plenty who wanted to put them in their place. 

“We got yelled at for wearing masks in a grocery store by an older person, luckily others were so friendly to argue for us.”

Several others said they were abused on social media for failing to wear a mask. 

Rachael C, from the UK, said she was yelled at in the street in Geneva for getting off a bus while wearing a mask. 

“After a bus journey before the compulsory requirement, I was wearing a mask and got off the bus to walk home. An old, drunk man screamed at me in the street in Geneva.”

“He called me crazy but because I am still learning French I still couldn’t understand everything he said. Some boys intervened, told him I was with them and to leave me alone.

Gianni S said the most concerning aspect of the abuse was that “there are many who believe that the virus is gone”. 

 

Infection rates have risen consistently in Switzerland since the start of July. 

‘Just explaining how to wear it properly’ 

Some readers explained that they had seen examples of people being told to wear their masks properly in public. 

In public transport or elsewhere, our readers pointed out numerous examples of people wearing masks under their chins or exposing their noses. 

Henrique S from Portugal said he didn’t consider telling someone to wear their mask properly counted as “abuse”. 

“People should be responsible on wearing the mask properly, therefore I do not think that mentioning how to use it is being abused.”

Abused for not wearing masks

While they were in the minority – less than 10 percent of more than 200 respondents said they were in favour of the mask requirement – there were some who faced abuse for failing to wear masks. 

One reader who refused to give his or her name said they had been shamed for not wearing masks outside. 

“Yes. It’s ridiculous. People (are) Asking me to wear a mask in the mountains whilst hiking and in a park queuing outside. People are just full of fear.”

 

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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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