Zurich makes masks compulsory in shops and markets

Amid rising infection rates, Zurich imposed a compulsory mask requirement in shops, markets and shopping centres from August 27th.

Zurich makes masks compulsory in shops and markets
A woman in a supermarket in Germany wearing a mask. Image: INA FASSBENDER / AFP

Authorities had been reluctant to impose a mask requirement in Switzerland's most populous canton, however their hand was forced by rising infection rates. 

Events and entertainment venues will no longer be able to have more than 100 attendees, unless there is a compulsory mask requirement. 

The decision to implement the mask requirement was made on Monday evening, August 24th. 

Zurich now has 65 new infections per 100,000 residents over the past 14 days, above the Swiss government's threshold of 60 per 100,000 which sees countries designated as 'high risk' and warranting quarantine. 

Zurich is the second German-speaking canton – and the sixth in Switzerland – to make masks compulsory in shops and supermarkets. 

From Monday, August 24th, masks will be required in shops, restaurants and some schools in Basel City. 

Basel City became the first German-speaking canton – and the fifth after Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel and Jura – to put in place the mask requirement in shops. 

Masks have been required on public transport in all Swiss cantons since July 6th. 

'We have to act'

On Sunday, Zurich mayor Corine Mauch called for a compulsory mask requirement to be introduced in Switzerland's most populous canton.

Mauch said “we have to act before we lose control”.

“We would like to take further measures”.

Mauch warned that the canton was facing a crucial moment and that a mask requirement should be put in place before authorities “lose control” of the virus. “We must remain vigilant and careful. In this respect, the mask also has a symbolic meaning. It makes the presence of the virus visible,” she said.

Correction: This article previously stated that masks were required in restaurants and bars. As of August 27th, masks are only compulsory in shopping centres, supermarkets, markets and shops in Zurich. 

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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