Coronavirus: Switzerland becomes a ‘high-risk’ country according to government threshold

Switzerland as a whole is now effectively a high-risk area for coronavirus after infection rates in the country passed the Swiss government's own safety threshold.

Coronavirus: Switzerland becomes a 'high-risk' country according to government threshold
A protester waves a Swiss flag during a coronavirus skeptic demonstration in Zurich. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

When Switzerland put in place its quarantine requirement for foreign travellers, the government established a threshold of 60 infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the previous 14 days to determine which countries were ‘high risk’. 

Since July 6th, arrivals from so-called high-risk countries have been required to quarantine upon entering Switzerland. 

Since Monday, September 14th, Switzerland is now officially a high-risk country according to its own criteria, news site 20 Minutes points out

It might lead to some twisted logic, but if Switzerland was a foreign country, arrivals in Switzerland would be forced to quarantine for ten days.

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

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) recorded 5,256 infections over the past two weeks – a 16 percent increase on the previous period. 

It is the first time Switzerland has crossed the threshold as a country since the criteria has come into place, although the mark has been crossed by individual cantons previously. 

Both Geneva and Zurich have crossed the threshold in recent weeks. In Geneva, the threshold crossed the 100 mark in early August. 

While the rate applies across the entire country, high infection rates in a handful of Swiss cantons have pushed the overall rate up. 

Currently, the hotspots are Zurich, Geneva, Vaud and Friborg. 

Analysis: Which Swiss cantons have the fewest Covid-19 infections — and why? 



‘Under control’ 

Despite the rising infection rates, Swiss health experts have been at pains to point out that the situation is under control. 

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset told the NZZ on Sunday that the cases would not increase exponentially. 

Stefan Kuster, spokesperson for the FOPH, said the situation in Switzerland was under control. 

Berset said it was the responsibility of the cantons to take appropriate measures. 

“Given the special situation, it is the responsibility of the cantons to respond to epidemiological developments with suitable measures and to adapt contact tracing to the situation. They know the terrain and the regional conditions.”

Rudolf Hauri, President of the Cantonal Doctors Association, took solace in the fact the situation in Switzerland “was better than in France or Austria”. 

“Examples such as Geneva show that measures taken are effective and the number of infections can be slowed down accordingly. We have to stay careful to master (the situation) this autumn.”

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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