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Switzerland and Italy to suspend cross-border train services indefinitely

Switzerland and Italy will halt all cross-border rail services from Thursday because train personnel do not have capacity to carry out COVID-19 safety checks.

Switzerland and Italy to suspend cross-border train services indefinitely
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Train staff are unable to carry out the checks, which have been ordered by the Italian government, the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

The move to suspend the trains is in place indefinitely and affects dozens of daily cross-border services, including 'EuroCity' connections and long-distance trains between Milan and Frankfurt. 

Regional trains that connect the two countries, which are used by thousands of cross-border workers are also affected.

Switzerland and neighbouring Italy, Germany and France had already reduced train services in November, but the Italian government introduced new requirements due to the surge in cases during the second wave of the pandemic.

That has resulted in the train services being halted as they were during the first wave back in spring.

Italy did not explicitly forbid train travel abroad, but its requirements — including for passengers’ temperatures to be measured — exceed the capacity of train personnel, an SBB spokeswoman told Reuters, leading to the decision to suspend the Swiss-Italian routes.

“Swiss Federal Railways trains will travel only to the country’s border to Italy,” SBB said.

Italy, France and Germany have also introduced new requirements meant to prevent skiers from travelling over the holidays to Switzerland and Austria, where resorts are due to be open for limited, locals-only skiing.

The SBB has promised to refund people who purchased tickets, reports 20 Minutes

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HEALTH

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
 

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