‘A hand is still a hand’: Switzerland warns against fist bumps

“First they came for the handshakes and I said nothing…” Swiss health officials have issued new guidelines warning against fist bumps.

‘A hand is still a hand’: Switzerland warns against fist bumps
Fist bumps are no longer OK in these coronavirus times. Image: PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP

For months, fist bumps have been used as an apparent alternative to handshakes. 

But on Monday, Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), warned against fist bumps due to the risk of transmitting coronavirus. 

Known in the Swiss media as a ‘ghetto fist’, fist bumps are said by the FOPH to be no safer than handshakes. 

“Hand is hand,” said FOPH spokesperson Adrian Kammer. 

“It doesn't matter whether it's a classic handshake, a high five or a fist.”

Fist bumps have grown in popularity across Switzerland since the start of the pandemic. The greeting has even been seen in Swiss parliament. 

The FOPH has even advised against the ‘elbow bump’, another pandemic greeting which has grown in popularity. 

“Touching should be avoided at the moment” said Kammer. 

What is the hygiene-appropriate way to greet each other during the pandemic? 

Swiss health officials haven’t provided specific guidelines, but instead said distance must be the priority and suggested that bowing may be the best way. 

“To greet each other, keep your distance, look each other in the eye, and maybe nod your head – and do it all with a smile.”

“The whole population has to find out together what the new greeting rituals are. A bow with sufficient distance is one of many possibilities.”

“Not touching one another is the new polite and a form of respect at this time.”

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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