Geneva’s Jet d’Eau switched off due to pandemic

Geneva's famous Jet d'Eau fountain, which spouts water over a hundred metres into the air, is to remain switched off to signal the need for people to observe virus restrictions.

Geneva's Jet d'Eau switched off due to pandemic
Geneva's famous Jet d'Eau. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The Lake Geneva landmark had been due to be turned back on this week after annual maintenance work, but local officials have decided it is better to leave it off for now.

The Geneva cantonal government said in a statement that it, “in light of the current health situation in Switzerland and Geneva linked to the Covid-19 pandemic,” it had decided to shut down the landmark.

By leaving the majestic fountain, which usually attracts large numbers of tourists, switched off, authorities said they hoped to “send a new signal to the population” that outings and interactions needed to be restricted as far as possible.

READ: Five promising signs that Covid-19 pandemic might be 'stabilising' in Switzerland 

The canton also shut down the Jet d'Eau during the 83 days of partial confinement in Switzerland when the first wave of the pandemic hit the country in the spring.

The fountain, which shoots water 140 metres (460 feet) into the air at 200 kilometres an hour before allowing it to cascade down into Lake Geneva, has towered visibly over the centre of the city virtually every day since 1891.

It is usually only shut down by strong winds or freezing temperatures. Like some landmarks in other cities, such as the Empire State Building in New York it is usually lit up in varying colours in the evening.

Switzerland emerged relatively unscathed from the first wave of the pandemic.

But it has been hard-hit by the second wave, and Geneva, which is struggling with saturated hospitals, has shuttered all restaurants, bars and non-essential shops in a bid to stem the surging numbers of cases and deaths.

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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