Is Switzerland’s coronavirus skeptic movement ‘imported’?

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset has criticised those taking part in the country’s coronavirus skeptic movement, saying it has been “imported from abroad”.

Is Switzerland’s coronavirus skeptic movement ‘imported’?
A coronavirus skeptic rally in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The movement, which has held high-profile rallies in Zurich, Geneva, Bern and elsewhere, is highly critical of the government’s coronavirus mitigation strategy, particularly the requirement to wear masks and the impact of the mitigation measures on the economy. 

Berset told Switzerland’s NZZ am Sonntag that the movement was contrary to Swiss values and was “imported from abroad”. 

“A movement is being built (in Switzerland) against our fact-driven, democratic society”, Berset said. 

“Some of the anti-coronavirus movement appears to be imported from abroad”. 

Although the coronavirus skeptic movement in Switzerland has been most prominent in the German-speaking parts of the country, rallies have recently been held in French-speaking Switzerland. 

A rally in Geneva on September 12 attracted an estimated 1000 people, mirroring that of a demonstration held in Zurich the week before. 


– IN PICTURES: Inside Switzerland's anti-coronavirus lockdown protests 

– IN PICTURES: Hundreds attend coronavirus skeptic rally in Zurich

‘Noisy minority’ 

While accepting that coronavirus sceptics were only a “noisy minority” of “rightwing extremists, radical anti-vaccination campaigners and obscure conspiracy theorists”, it had the potential to disrupt the country’s efforts in fighting the virus. 

Berset said Switzerland’s approach to managing the virus was fact-based and was not especially strict on a global basis. 

“I have little sympathy for the current tendency to deny the virus, which is causing much suffering worldwide, and even accuse the authorities of dictatorial behaviour. That is absurd. Switzerland is one of the more liberal countries when it comes to corona measures,” he declared.

A coronavirus skeptic rally in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

“We implemented the law on epidemics passed by the people. In addition, the Federal Council has always acted with a sense of proportion, always giving the needs of society and the economy the highest possible priority. 

“Epidemiologists accuse us of having been too hesitant in issuing the restrictions and then too brisk in reopening them. It is nonsensical and dishonest to accuse us of dictatorial behaviour now. I have no sympathy for this,” he said.

Berset came under fire in the Swiss media this week when he, along with representatives of his department, assured the public that the virus was under control, despite rising infection rates. 

Coronavirus: Switzerland now officially a high-risk area 

Switzerland is now officially a high-risk area for the coronavirus, according to the threshold set up by the Swiss government.

Switzerland's Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) recorded 5256 infections over the past two weeks – a 16 percent increase on the previous period.


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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