Switzerland: Zurich and Geneva implement stricter coronavirus measures

Zurich and Geneva have introduced stricter lockdown measures to battle rising case counts, including limiting the numbers of public and private events along with requiring masks in bars, restaurants and schools.

Switzerland: Zurich and Geneva implement stricter coronavirus measures
A road sign next to the headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland on October 14 recorded its highest ever case count since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The total was double the previous highest recorded total – from late March when the pandemic began. 

'Worry is the word of the hour': Switzerland doubles its highest total of new coronavirus cases 

As a result, authorities in the cantons which house Switzerland’s two largest cities – Zurich and Geneva – have put in place stricter requirements, the Tages Anzeiger reports


In Zurich, masks are required for all indoor events with more than 30 people. Masks are required at outdoor events with more than 300 people. 

Masks will be required in bars and restaurants in Zurich, but only where the bar or restaurant is not exclusively seated: i.e. where guests stand while drinking or eating. 

Masks will be required for all attendees at clubs, discos and dance halls. 

UPDATE: Where in Switzerland are masks compulsory right now? 

Service staff at bars and restaurants are also required to wear masks in Zurich. 

The measures apply from Thursday, October 15th onwards. 

The University of Zurich also put in place mandatory mask requirements in all areas, other than when drinking or eating

Finally, all adults in schools and educational institutions will be required to wear masks from October 19th onwards. 

As reported by Watson, the mask requirement applies “in the school buildings, in sports halls, care rooms and in break areas. The mask is not necessary if the minimum distance of one and a half meters to other people can be maintained in parts of the lesson or if protection can be ensured by adequate protective measures such as plexiglass walls.”


In Geneva, the measures are event stricter.

Public events are restricted to a maximum of 15 people. Private events now have a cap of 100 people, with all events with more than that number banned. 

‘Public’ spaces include all meetings in parks, on riverbanks or the shores of Lake Geneva, or any other public area. 

Distance must be kept at all public events – with masks required if distance cannot be kept. 

Permits are required for gatherings of more than 15 people – with organisers required to produce a ‘protection concept’ in order to gain the permit. 

All indoor spaces require masks. 

All school trips and study trips with overnight stays are cancelled. 

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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