For members


Everything that changes in Switzerland in November 2020

From tougher coronavirus measures to a minimum wage in Geneva, here’s what you can expect to happen in Switzerland in November.

Everything that changes in Switzerland in November 2020
In November, masks will be worn in crowded public places. Photo by AFP

More Covid-19 restrictions

From November 2nd, several cantons enforced new restrictions to rein in skyrocketing coronavirus cases.

The measures go beyond those mandated by the Federal Council on October 28th, which include mask mandate outdoors in all areas where “the concentration of people does not allow the necessary distances to be respected”,  11 pm curfew for bars and restaurants, the closure of nightclubs and discos, as well as the limit of 10 people for private gatherings and 50 for public events

Among the cantons that implemented additional measures is Geneva, which is under ‘semi-confinement’ —  a move that includes the closure of all bars, restaurants and non-essential shops, along with leisure establishments like cinemas, museums, libraries and pools. 

People are encouraged to leave their homes only if strictly necessary, though there are no legal bans on moving about.

Stricter measures are also in place from November 2nd in Jura and Neuchâtel, with more cantons expected to release their own restrictions to supplement the national ones.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Geneva and other Swiss cantons introduce tighter coronavirus restrictions 

Note: New restrictions are being introduced daily. Please stay tuned to The Local for the most up to date information – or contact us to ask about what's going on in your canton: [email protected]

Geneva introduces a minimum wage of 23 francs an hour from November 1st

In a referendum on September 27th, 58 percent of the canton’s voters approved this union-backed initiative, guaranteeing every worker in one of the world's priciest cities at least 23 francs an hour. 

Geneva is the third of Switzerland's 26 cantons to set a minimum hourly earnings rate after Jura and Neuchatel.

Rapid antigen tests are available from November 2nd

Rapid antigen tests, which show in about 15 minutes whether someone is infected with the coronavirus, are available in testing centres and pharmacies throughout the country from November 2nd and will be used along with the conventional testing method, the PCR test. 

Fast Covid-19 testing begins in November. Photo by AFP

According to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), “the current approach is that anyone with symptoms of the coronavirus should be tested immediately. The goal of this strategy is to detect as many infections as possible. This is the only way of systematically breaking chains of infection, which is key to managing the epidemic”.

Deadline for changing health insurance carriers

By now, you will likely have received a letter from your insurance company, notifying you of the premium for 2021 — by law, carriers must announce the new rates to their clients no later than October 31st.

Once a year every insured person has the right to change the provider of his or her basic compulsory health insurance. For most people, changing is only possible if you cancel your existing policy by November 30th.

Depending on the canton, the increase will be between -1.6 percent and 2.1 percent, somewhat lower than in previous years.

Two new referendums for November 29th

Coronavirus restrictions pending, Switzerland will go to the polls on November 29th to vote on two referendum questions. 

The first, entitled ‘For responsible businesses – protecting human rights and the environment’, aims to introduce new statutory obligations for Swiss businesses at home and abroad. 

The second, entitled ‘For a ban on financing war material manufacturers’, put in place strict restrictions on the production of weapons. 

Specifically, it seeks to “make it illegal to finance any form of war material, including, for example, the manufacture of assault rifles, tanks and their components. The ban will not only cover granting loans to war material manufacturers but will also make it illegal to hold shares in such companies or to invest in funds that contain their shares.”

More about the vote can be found here.







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For members


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