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HEALTH

Which cantons are Switzerland’s coronavirus mutation hotspots?

Coronavirus mutations first detected in the UK, South Africa and Brazil have been found all across Switzerland. Which cantons have been hardest hit?

Which cantons are Switzerland’s coronavirus mutation hotspots?
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Despite declining infection rates across Switzerland, concerns about coronavirus mutations look certain to see an extension of the country’s lockdown beyond February. 

More than 6,000 infections of a mutated form of coronavirus have now been detected in Switzerland. 

According to official government figures, 2,381 of those mutations are of the British variant, along with 96 of the South African variant. 

Three cases of the Brazilian variant have been detected in Switzerland. 

A further 3,526 are of an “unknown origin” according to the Swiss government. 

UPDATED: Brazilian coronavirus mutations detected in two Swiss cantons

Where are Switzerland’s coronavirus mutation hotspots? 

The west of the country has been hardest hit by coronavirus mutations. 

The most cases of the British variant have been discovered in Vaud (451), Bern (321) and Geneva (249). 

In total, 707 variants of an ‘unknown origin’ have been discovered in Geneva, along with 197 in Vaud and 189 in Valais. 

Elsewhere in Switzerland, Zurich recorded 684 examples of unknown variants, followed by Aargau 263. 

Switzerland’s Federal Office of Public Health said that while all possible effort was being put into tracking down the variants, not all cantons had set up infrastructure to track the variants – meaning that country-wide information is incomplete. 

The Brazilian variant has been detected in Zurich and Geneva

Geneva heavily hit

New figures from the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) show that 80 percent of all Covid cases in the canton can be traced back to new variants. 

This is up from just 60 percent in the middle of last week, showing how infectious the variants are

It is not clear why Geneva has recorded such a high number of mutations, but based on previous research, it may be because it lies on the border with France, is particularly densely populated, and has an international airport.

All these factors favour the mobility of the population and the circulation of coronavirus.

What is the long-term prognosis?

Swiss scientists believe that the variants will eventually replace the existing examples of the virus. 

“This is due to the fact that the British, Brazilian and South African variants are transmitted more quickly and easily. This is not an exceptional phenomenon in biology,” Ticino epidemiologist Andreas Cerny told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes

Virginie Masserey, of the FOPH, said on Tuesday that the British variant would likely be the most dominant strain of the virus in Switzerland from next week (22nd February)

Cerny warned that the danger of the variants meant that measures should not be relaxed anytime soon. 

“The reason for the falling number of cases is the strong measures currently in place in Switzerland,” he said. 

“This should actually reduce the number of cases even more, but this is not happening due to the mutations. If the measures were dropped now, the number of cases would quickly increase again.”

 

 

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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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