Swiss police can now issue on-the-spot fines for mask refusers

A law change has made it much easier for mask refusers to be fined in Switzerland.

Swiss police can now issue on-the-spot fines for mask refusers
Mask refusers can now be fined on the spot in Switzerland. Photo: STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP

Switzerland’s National Council on Tuesday put in place a range of changes to the Covid-19 regulation. 

As a result of the changes, police will now be able to issue on-the-spot fines for ‘mask refusers’, i.e. people who do not comply with the country’s strict coronavirus mask requirement. 

Groups of people who exceed limits on public meetings and do not comply with social distancing rules can now also be issued with on-the-spot fines by law enforcement officers. 

Switzerland’s new outdoor mask requirement: Everything you need to know

Previously, police would issue violators with tickets, which would then be forwarded to the responsible governor – who would decide how high the penalty would be and whether it would indeed be imposed. 

Now, police can issue fines to violators immediately as they come across them. 

While the Epidemics Act still has a maximum fine of CHF10,000 for intentional behaviour and CHF5,000 for negligence, these fines are typically issued to businesses and organisations which operate in contravention of the coronavirus measures. 

The fines for individual mask violators are capped at a much more reasonable CHF300. 

The law changes also gave more discretion to police to refrain from issuing fines where they feel something is unclear, for instance where someone is not wearing a mask in a pedestrian area, as reported by Watson

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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