‘German speakers half as likely to wear masks’: Pandemic highlights Switzerland’s cultural divide

Twice as many people wear masks in public in French and Italian-speaking Switzerland than in German-speaking Switzerland, a new report has found.

‘German speakers half as likely to wear masks’: Pandemic highlights Switzerland’s cultural divide
A masked person takes a picture of a Swiss flag hanging on mountain Saentis Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

A new study has shown that twice as many people wear masks in public in ‘Latin Switzerland’ – i.e. the French and Italian-speaking regions – when compared to German-speaking Switzerland. 

In German-speaking Switzerland, almost two thirds (64 percent) of respondents said they do not wear masks in public spaces, compared with 31 percent of people in Latin Switzerland. 

The average across Switzerland, according to the study, is that 45 percent of respondents wear masks in public spaces. 

In total, 86 percent of respondents wear masks in public transport – where they have been compulsory since July 6th. 

Nine out of ten (90 percent) said they respected social distancing rules, both now and at the outbreak of the pandemic. 

The survey, conducted by Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health, was conducted at the end of July. A total of 1,673 people were surveyed as part of the study. 

It is the fifth survey of its kind undertaken by the FOPH since the start of the pandemic in March. 

German-speaking Switzerland avoided the worst of the pandemic

As reported by The Local Switzerland early in the outbreak of the pandemic, the French and Italian-speaking parts of Switzerland were hit harder by the pandemic than German-speaking Switzerland. 

Coronavirus in Switzerland: Why have the French and Italian-speaking regions been so hard hit? 

At one more than two-thirds (68 percent) of the country's total victims of Covid-19 live in Latin Switzerland, despite these areas accounting for less than a third of the country's population.

On current figures, while infection rates in Zurich are growing, mortality remains higher in Latin Switzerland. 

More than half of Switzerland’s 2010 deaths have come from just three cantons: Vaud (432), Geneva (297) and Ticino (350), all of which speak either French or Italian. 

The canton with the fourth-highest number of deaths, Valais (155), is majority French speaking. 

Zurich, the canton with Switzerland’s largest population, has recorded 142 deaths from the virus. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


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