Swiss Health Minister: ‘No relaxation of coronavirus measures in February’

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said on Wednesday that the existing coronavirus measures would not be relaxed until at least next month.

Swiss Health Minister: 'No relaxation of coronavirus measures in February'
Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In a press conference discussing the coronavirus pandemic, Berset told the media there would be “no lockdown easing in February”. 

Berset said the current situation was still problematic, evidenced by a rise in the coronavirus reproduction rate.

Switzerland’s R-Rate climbed above 1 for the first time in two months on Wednesday. The R-Rate is a crucial metric which illustrates how the virus is spreading through the community. 

EXPLAINED: What are the details of Switzerland's coronavirus restrictions? 

Berset did however say that despite the increase, the government had not planned any further measures to be implemented in the coming weeks. 

“We don't want to get into a situation where we no longer have an alternative. We still have these alternatives (of tougher measures) today,” he said. 

“We have gotten used to different things. Wearing masks (for instance) is no longer a problem for the population. This time we will relax the measures differently than last time.”

“We don't know how it will develop. We only know that the situation is more difficult than it was in December, when we decided on the measures. 

“At that time we had no knowledge of the mutations. If the mutation case numbers continue to double every week, then we have to see what we do.”

In particular, Berset said Switzerland would not follow the lead of some of its neighbours and close schools. 

“We don’t see (school closures) as a likely solution. It’s up to the cantons to close the schools – and they are doing it well.”



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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