Swiss authorities impose tighter pandemic rules as cases jump

The Swiss government said on Saturday it was making the wearing of masks in indoor public spaces compulsory under new measures introduced after a "worrying" rise in coronavirus infections.

Swiss authorities impose tighter pandemic rules as cases jump
A Geneva protest against compulsory mask-wearing in September. Photo: AFP

It said gatherings of more than 15 people in public would also be banned under the rules to take effect on Monday, while service in restaurants and bars would be restricted to seated customers only.

“The sharp increase in the number of contaminations in recent days is worrying. Indeed, it concerns all age groups and all cantons,” the government said in a statement.

What you need to know about Switzerland's strict new lockdown measures 

Although the pandemic had initially largely spared the wealthy Alpine nation, cases have now been soaring and on Friday it reported 3,087 new cases.

Switzerland is the now European country where virus infections have progressed the fastest in the past week, with a rise of 146 percent according to AFP data.

Total deaths have reached 1,822, out of a population of 8.5 million.

“This last week infections have doubled,” President Simonetta Sommaruga told a press conference as she unveiled national restrictions to contain a crisis that had previously been the responsibility of Switzerland's regions or cantons.

But some Swiss are not happy at the new restrictions, with several hundred people staging a demonstration outside the government's Federal Palace in Bern on Sunday.

“At present, it only takes a week to see a doubling of cases because we have too many people getting infected for each new case,” Federal Health Minister Alain Berset said

He said the proportion of positive tests for Covid-19 was very high at 15 or 16 percent, describing the increase in the number of infections as “worrying”.

“(But) we should not be afraid of this development… we know how to act and this is the moment,” he told the press conference.


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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