Flu pandemic: Swiss citizens abroad

Whether you’re abroad on business, on holiday or because you live there, find out about the recommendations for Swiss citizens in the event of an epidemic. 

Most of the 750,000-plus Swiss who are resident abroad live in industrial countries that have made thorough preparations for the possibility of a flu pandemic. These countries offer a similar level of healthcare to Switzerland, and in these cases Switzerland does not have to take special precautions.

But there are also significant numbers of Swiss citizens who are resident in developing and emerging countries where the government might not have taken adequate precautions for the event of a pandemic. For this reason the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) has long had a strategy in place to reduce the impact on Swiss people living in such countries if a pandemic threatens. The strategy works on the basis of a cascade of responsibilities.

1. Individual responsibility

Swiss who move abroad have left the jurisdiction and protection of Switzerland. If the country in which they are a guest is unable to take the necessary precautions, they are called upon to take action in their own best interests.

2. Local authorities’ responsibility

On the basis of the territorial principle, it is up to the local authorities to assure healthcare for people – nationals and non-nationals – living in the territory. They may receive support from the WHO, at least in the early stages of a pandemic. But employers that send their staff abroad also have a duty of care.

3. Subsidiary support from Switzerland

If it is not possible for a Swiss person living abroad to take precautions on their own responsibility, and the local authorities, WHO and employers do not have adequate resources either, Switzerland will provide subsidiary support within the limited options available.

Last modification 22.04.2020

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Prevention and Healthcare Provision Directorate
Communicable Diseases Division
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Bern
Tel. +41 58 463 87 06

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