‘Self-quarantine’: Tips for how to have a safe Swiss Christmas

While the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is preparing to release on Sunday a set of recommendations for the holidays, a health expert is providing a glimpse into what guidelines Swiss authorities will release.

'Self-quarantine': Tips for how to have a safe Swiss Christmas
Christmas celebrations will be scaled down this year. Photo by AFP

Although the number of new coronavirus infections has been steadily declining in recent days, authorities are urging the public to continue being vigilant and respecting health strategies currently in place.

On national level, these measures include a mask requirement for indoors, as well as crowded outdoor spaces, along with the limit on the number of people allowed to gather privately and publicly. Additionally, cantons have introduced their own, more restrictive measures.

READ MORE: Covid-19: What kind of Christmas can we expect in Switzerland this year? 

Virginie Masserey, head of FOPH’s infection control unit, is recommending these steps to ensure safe holiday celebrations:


Masserey suggests quarantining for a few days, about two weeks before Christmas.

By eliminating contacts with other, potentially contaminated individuals, you will ensure that you won’t inadvertently infect anyone in your family or circle of friends.

Smaller gatherings

Big family celebrations should be postponed until the pandemic is fully under control.

For now, only small groups should gather together, at a safe distance and respecting the maximum numbers established by your canton of residence.

This may mean several small gatherings instead of one huge one.

Out of the house

Whenever possible, gather with your friends and family outdoors.

Weather permitting, you can celebrate in your garden, in a park, or in a forest. But here too you must adhere to the rules on the number of people allowed to congregate in public places.

“We won’t be able to have the kind of large family gatherings that we are used to, but get-togethers in small groups will probably be possible” said Didier Pittet , the head of the infection prevention and control service at Geneva University Hospitals (HUG). 

However, Geneva’s Health Minister Mauro Poggia is more optimistic about Christmas.

“We hope that the efforts we are making now will allow us to reap the benefits at the end of the year and that we can ease the measures so that family reunions can still take place”, he said. 


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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