How Swiss businesses are using temperature scanners to cut coronavirus risks

Businesses and fitness centres across Switzerland have begun rolling out scanners to determine if their employees have a temperature, mirroring practices that have been common place in China.

How Swiss businesses are using temperature scanners to cut coronavirus risks
A temperature scanner in use at an Israeli airport. Photo: JACK GUEZ / AFP

While the practice may be able to prevent outbreaks, there are some concerns about civil liberties. 

Covid-19 has any number of symptoms – from loss of taste and smell to unknown mental impacts – but one of the most consistent has been high temperatures. 

Chinese authorities and businesses have used ‘fever screening’ regularly to identify possible infections, however the systems have mainly been employed in airports when used outside China. 

Using infrared technology, the fever scanners hope to identify anyone with an above average body temperature – without needing to come into contact with possibly infectious individuals. 

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

FC Luzern already using scanners

Already in use at FC Luzern games, the scanners are growing in popularity across Switzerland

The Ice Hockey National League told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung that it is considering employing infrared cameras to improve safety at its games. 

The scanners have also been put in place at slaughterhouses across Switzerland to detect employee temperatures, as well as at Swiss and international firms including Spectec AG, Unilever and Pilatus-Flugzeugwerke. 

The NZZ reports that hotels all across Switzerland have been using the technology, with some hotels advertising to potential guests that their employees are regularly scanned. 

Nightclubs have also begun ordering the devices to detect potential infections among patrons – with everyone above 38 degrees to be turned away. 

At Pilatus-Flugzeugwerke in Stans, customers and employees are only allowed to enter if they have a body temperature below 37.7 degrees. 2,200 employees are scanned daily. 

At Pilatus or Unilever employee who refuses to walk past the camera will not be allowed onto the site and will need to go home. 

“The protection or health of all other employees is more important than the interests of an individual employee” a Pilatus spokesperson told the NZZ. 

Unilever said that while employees would not be allowed on site without a check, they would continue to receive full pay and would be allowed to work from

Privacy concerns? 

Some have expressed concerns about the temperature scanners, saying they are invasive and that the data they collect may fall into the wrong hands. 

Most of the software and hardware being used comes from China – where privacy concerns are less stringent. 

Representatives from Pilatus-Flugzeugwerke told the NZZ they deleted all relevant information after 14 days. 

Isabelle Wildhaber, Professor of Private and Commercial Law at the University of St. Gallen, told the NZZ that while the use of the cameras was likely to be lawful, companies should try and improve overall discretion by protecting the privacy of employees who may be infected. 

This could include scanning employees individually or behind a curtain. 

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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