‘It’s impossible’: How coronavirus has impacted Swiss professional sport

Switzerland announced Wednesday that with COVID-19 cases rising again, it was prolonging the ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people until October 1, triggering upheaval for major sports.

'It's impossible': How coronavirus has impacted Swiss professional sport
How will the pandemic continue to impact sports in Switzerland? Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The decision to extend the ban by a further month caused the immediate cancellation of the world cycling championships, while the Swiss ice hockey and football championships, desperate for spectator income, were forced to rethink the start of the season.

The Swiss government “intends to ensure that the epidemiological situation in Switzerland does not deteriorate”, it said in a statement.

READ MORE: Switzerland to allow large gatherings from October 

“This careful reopening step takes into account the needs of society and the economic interests of sports clubs and cultural venues.”

Switzerland stopped short of imposing strict confinement when it introduced measures in mid-March aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus.

It began gradually easing its restrictions in stages, from April 27.

The ban on events for more than 1,000 people was due to expire on August 31 but has been extended for another month, with the government spelling out the conditions in which they could return.

“Strict protective measures will apply and the events will have to be authorised by the cantons, taking into account the local epidemiological situation and their contact-tracing capacity.”

The one-month extension triggered the cancellation of the world cycling championships, due to take place from September 20-27 in Aigle-Martigny. “Because of this, it is impossible,” said organisers, who are now considering options in other countries.

Main spectator sports rejig

The Swiss Football League said it had wanted the restriction lifted in time for the September 11 planned start of the season, “and must therefore reconsider the scheduling of the first league matches”.

The SFL is eyeing a return of supporters with no standing sections, no away fans, compulsory masks, safe capacity limits and regulated entry and exit flows.

SFL chief executive Claudius Schafer said lifting the restrictions was of “existential importance” to clubs. The Swiss Ice Hockey Federation said clubs would meet on Friday to decide when to start the season.

Matches from October with more than 1,000 spectators “is the pre-requisite for economic survival”, said a statement on the SIHF website.

“However, with the partial use of stadium capacity, the financial situation of professional clubs remains tight and losses are foreseeable.”

Nonetheless, “the joy of playing ice hockey in front of fans again prevails and we firmly believe the championship can be staged successfully and safely.”

Some 37,079 people have tested positive for the new coronavirus in Switzerland, a country of 8.5 million people, while 1,713 have lost their lives.

Daily infection rates plunged from over 1,000 in mid-March to a few dozen between mid-May and mid-June.

They have since risen, with 273 new cases announced on Wednesday — a level not seen since mid-April. Meanwhile face masks will be made mandatory on all flights in and out of Switzerland from Saturday.

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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