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HEALTH

Switzerland sees Europe’s biggest surge in Covid-19 cases

Europe has seen a huge surge in Covid-19 infections in recent days with Switzerland topping the table for the biggest growth rate.

Switzerland sees Europe's biggest surge in Covid-19 cases
AFP

Around the world the pandemic has continued to pick up speed over the past  week, with 342,550 new daily cases, an increase of nine percent over the previous week, according to an AFP tally on Friday at 11am GMT.

But it is in Europe that the rate of infections has increased most, spiralling by a huge 44 percent. The number of new average daily cases there is around 121,227, against 84,400 the previous week.

The number of cases also rose in Oceania by 66 percent, in North America by 17 percent and Africa by 16 percent.

However the number of infections has decreased in Latin America and the Caribbean and in the Middle East by 15 percent, as well as in Asia (down by seven percent).

The number of confirmed cases only reflects a fraction of the actual number of infections, as different countries have different counting practices and levels of testing.

Biggest increases

It is in Switzerland where the pandemic is growing most with a 146 percent rise, or 1,771 new daily cases on average, among the countries which have recorded more than 1,000 daily cases over the past week.

Chart from Our World in Data

Belgium follows with 125 percent, or 6,235 cases, Poland (111 percent, 5,472 cases) Italy (106 percent, 6,172 cases) and Slovakia (78 percent, 1,214 cases).

On Friday Switzerland reported another 3,105 new infections, setting a new record for a second consecutive day, albeit the country is carrying out more tests than it did back in the spring when the pandemic first hit.

There have been a total of 74,422 confirmed cases in Switzerland and the neighbouring principality of Liechtenstein. The death toll in the country rose by 5 to 1,823 on Friday. 

 

 

 

Chart from Our World in Data

 

On Thursday the country's health minister warned that the situation was “deteriorating” at an alarming rate.

“We have in recent days faced a new dynamic, which is very negative and very strong,” Alain Berset told reporters. “For the past week, he said “the situation in Switzerland is deteriorating faster than elsewhere.”

The proportion of positive tests in the country has meanwhile jumped from 5.4 to 10.2 percent in the past week.

Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga warned Thursday that a full-blown second wave was looming. “It is five minutes to midnight,” she told reporters, urging everyone in the country to take precautions.

“The swifter we act, the less restrictions there will be for the population, the economy, families and risk groups,” she said, urging everyone to “work together”.

 

 

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HEALTH

How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Switzerland’s health infrastructure is consistently rated among the best in the world, but how does it compare with other countries?

How is Swiss healthcare system different from the rest of Europe?

Whether in terms of politics, social system or economy, the Swiss often chart their own course, which fundamentally diverges from that of its European neighbours.

Healthcare is no exception.

The differences lie primarily in who finances the scheme — public versus private — and how the overall system functions.

Like much of the European Union, Switzerland has a universal health system, which means everyone in the country is covered by insurance and has access to medical care.

In most countries, the government typically has control, to a lesser or greater extent, over funding, health insurance, and health providers.

In France, for instance, most healthcare costs are covered by the state healthcare system, known as assurance maladie, and this is funded by taxes – healthcare costs account for about 13 percent of the average person’s gross salary.

In Germany, health costs are shared by employers and workers, with employees paying 7.5 percent of their salaries into a public health insurance fund, and companies matching that amount.

Italy’s national, system, called the Servizio Sanitario Nazionale, or simply SSN, which is financed mainly though federal and regional taxes, automatically covers all residents. Medical care is largely free of charge at the point of service.

Public healthcare also exists in Austria, with certain portions of salaries being automatically deducted to fund the scheme. However, healthcare is free of charge for low-income people or those who who are disabled, studying, or retired.

Although no longer part of the EU, the UK health system is also based on state healthcare via the NHS. It is funded by taxes which account for about 4.5 percent of the average citizens’ gross income.

What about Switzerland?

The system here is fundamentally different in that it is not tax-based or financed by employers, but rather by individuals themselves.

Everyone must have a basic health insurance coverage and purchase it from one of dozens of private carriers.

Basic insurance — KVG in German and LaMal in French and Italian — is compulsory in Switzerland. It doesn’t come cheap — premiums are based on the canton of residence and age, costing 300 to 400 francs a month on average — but it is quite comprehensive; it includes coverage for illness, medications, tests, maternity, physical therapy, preventive care, and many other treatments.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about health insurance in Switzerland

There are no employer-sponsored or state-run insurance programmes, and the government’s only role is to ensure that all insurance companies offer the same basic coverage to everyone and that they have the same pricing.

While companies can’t compete on prices or benefits offered by the basic compulsory insurance — which are defined by the Health Ministry — they can, and do, compete on supplemental polices which offer perks not included in the basic coverage.

READ MORE: What isn’t covered by Switzerland’s compulsory health insurance?

All policies have deductibles (also called co-pays) that can range from 300 to 2,500 francs a year.

After the deductible is reached, 90 percent of all medical costs will be covered by insurance, with 10 percent being paid by the patient; however, this co-pay is capped at 700 francs a year for adults and 350 francs for children under 18.

The government does subsidise healthcare for the low-income individuals and households – defined as those for whom insurance premiums exceed 10 percent of their income.

What percentage of a person’s income goes to health insurance premiums?

This depends on wages and premiums, for instance, whether a person chose the cheapest option with a high deductible or the expensive one with a 300-franc deductible.

Generally speaking, however, based on the average monthly income of just over 7,000 francs, about 6.5 percent is spent on premiums.

What happens if you don’t take out an health insurance policy?

Anyone who arrives in  Switzerland must get insured within three months. If you don’t, the government will choose one for you and send you the bill. If this happens you may end up with more expensive premiums than you might have gotten if you shopped around yourself.

If you are still delinquent on your payments, your healthcare will be restricted to emergencies only; any other non-urgent medical treatment will be denied, unless you pay for it out of pocket.

The pros and cons of the Swiss system

Let’s look at the ‘cons’ first. Basically, there is one: the cost.

Not only are insurance premiums high and steadily increasing, but, at 7,179 francs per capita, Switzerland has the third most expensive healthcare scheme in the world — behind only the United States ($12,318) and Germany ($7,383).

Unlike taxpayer-funded models, there is no price grading according to income, so people on a low income pay a high proportion of their income for healthcare than higher earners. 

However, the system is generally efficient, has an extensive network of doctors, as well as well-equipped hospitals and clinics.

Patients are free to choose their own doctor and usually have unlimited access to specialists.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to see a specialist doctor in Switzerland without a referral

Waiting lists for medical treatments are relatively short.

According to a survey by the Organisation  for Economic Cooperation and Development  (OECD) on how long patients in various countries typically wait for an appointment with a specialist, the share of people in Switzerland waiting a month or more is 23 percent, compared to 36 percent in France, 52 percent in Sweden, and 61 percent in Norway.

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