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HEALTH

Swiss animal authority warns against putting masks on pets

An animal protection association in Zurich has criticised pet owners putting coronavirus masks on their dogs or cats.

Swiss animal authority warns against putting masks on pets
A man poses with his mask-wearing dog. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The Katzenheim Schnurrli Foundation in Zurich launched a campaign in early August to stop pet owners covering the mouths of their dogs and cats with coronavirus masks. 

Under the moniker “No masks for animals – this is cruelty!” the foundation said that pet owners should use their common sense. 

Claudia Hitz, managing director of the Katzenheim Schnurrli Foundation, told Swiss media outlet 20 Minutes that many pet owners in Switzerland thought putting masks on their animals may protect them from the virus.

“The panic and uncertainty due to the corona virus is great in the population,” Hitz said. 

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

“We suspect that the owners believe they are protecting the animal from infection.”

She said the foundation had received several calls from animal lovers “asking whether or not it was OK to put masks on the animals”. 

A spokesperson for the Animal Law Foundation told 20 Minutes “masks can cause significant stress in animals, cause shortness of breath and panic.” 

“Masks endanger animal welfare. Whoever forces such a thing on them acts cruelly.”

While dogs and cats can contract coronavirus, the risk of catching the virus is lower than in humans, as is the mortality rate. 

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

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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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