New mask requirements: Does Switzerland have sufficient stock?

On Sunday, Swiss authorities announced that due to the alarming increase in Covid-19 infections, face masks will now have to be worn in all indoor public spaces.

New mask requirements: Does Switzerland have sufficient stock?
At the moment, Switzerland has enough masks in stock. Photo by AFP

The new measures are being implemented on Monday as Switzerland is experiencing Europe's biggest surge in coronavirus cases, with a 146-percent rise on average.

At the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak in March and April, Switzerland only had two and a half weeks of stocks available, leading to a scarcity of masks at the height of the pandemic.

The shortage became so severe that authorities had to order masks from abroad and buy special equipment to manufacture face coverings locally.

What is the situation now?

Major retailers Migros, Coop, Aldi and Lidl told SRF public broadcaster on Saturday that they have a sufficient number of masks in stock at the moment. 

“We have enough masks and are in close contact with our suppliers in order to guarantee the provision at all times,” Lidl’s spokesperson said.

The military, which provided millions of masks to stores and pharmacies during the first outbreak, also has a large supply.

According to army spokesman Daniel Reist, “our capacities cover 130 percent of the amount defined by public health authorities”.

READ MORE: Which masks sold in Switzerland are most and least effective against Covid-19? 

One of the Swiss manufacturers, Wernli AG, told SRF that the company is currently manufacturing half a million masks a day and will expand its production to 700,000 per day.

However, Wernli’s director Felix Schönle pointed out that domestic production is not sufficient to cover the demand, and 80 percent of the most commonly used disposable masks are imported from China.


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What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card

Switzerland is late in issuing health insurance cards for new policy holders or those who have switched their providers at the end of 2022. What should you do if you need medical help before your new card arrives?

What to do if you haven’t yet received your Swiss health insurance card

When you buy a health insurance policy in Switzerland from any of the dozens of approved providers, you will receive a credit card-sized card to be used as proof of insurance. Aside from your name, date of birth, and AHV / AVS number, the card also includes the name of your insurance company, client number, and the date of validity.

You will have to present this card each time you seek medical treatment that is included under the obligatory KVG / LaMal scheme.

Residents of Switzerland are allowed to change their compulsory health insurance coverage from one provider to another by November 30th, to go into effect from January of the following year.

The sharp increase in the cost of the health insurance in 2023 — 6.6 percent on average, but higher in some cantons — has prompted many people to look for cheaper options and change their carriers.

READ MORE: Millions of Swiss residents switch health insurance amid rising costs

This massive switch has caused a backlog in the production of new insurance cards, which means that many policy holders have not yet received theirs.

The cards for all insurance carriers are issued by a subsidiary of the Santésuisse health insurance association, whose spokesperson, Manuel Ackermann, said that the delay is caused by the “extraordinarily large number” — three times as many as in an average year — of switches.

He did not specify how much longer is needed to issue and send out all the cards.

What should you do if you haven’t yet received your card?

Say you need medical help, or another situation arises where proof of health insurance is needed — for instance, if you are applying for a new job or registering in a new municipality.

In such cases, you can present the insurance certificate letter your carrier has issued when you took up your policy.

While not having an insurance card is a minor inconvenience in Switzerland, where such a certificate can be used in the interim, it could be more of a problem when travelling in the European Union.

Under normal circumstances, if you fall ill in the EU, all you have do is present your Swiss card, which is equivalent to the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This way, you can be treated and the bill will go directly to your Swiss insurance company.

However, absence of the card could mean that hospitals in those countries may not recognise the insurance certificate alone, and require Swiss residents to pay for medical care on the spot.

While not an ideal situation, you can submit the bill, along with all the required documents such as details of your treatment, to your insurer in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Reader question: Can my Swiss health insurance refuse to pay my medical bills?