Swiss climber falls to his death on birthday hike

Swiss mountaineer Erhard Loretan, one of the few climbers to reach all 14 world’s highest peaks, died on Thursday in a mountain accident.

Loretan died while climbing the Grünhorn, pictured here

Loretan died immediately after a fall from the summit ridge of the Grünhorn, near Bern, at 3,800 metres, reports said.

The accident, which occurred on Loretan’s 52nd birthday on Thursday, also involved a second climber, a 38-year-old Swiss woman, who was flown to hospital and is in serious condition, according to the leading daily Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Police are investigating the fall, the paper said.

Loretan, originally from the Canton of Fribourg, was considered a top mountaineer after he managed to conquer the world’s 14 highest peaks above 8,000 metres high.

He is also well-known for his 1986 ascent of Mount Everest overnight and without bottled oxygen.

Besides his mountaineering successes, Loretan also grabbed headlines in 2003 when he pleaded guilty and was convicted on manslaughter charges for the death of his baby son.

Loretan was accused of shaking the baby and causing his death.

The case helped raise awareness in Switzerland on the risk of shaking babies even for a few seconds, as the weakness of their neck muscles can lead to accidental death


IN NUMBERS: Reasons to be optimistic about the coronavirus situation in Switzerland

Data from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) shows that the rate of contaminations is declining, especially in the hardest-hit Swiss cantons.

IN NUMBERS: Reasons to be optimistic about the coronavirus situation in Switzerland
Measures such as make in and outdoors helped bring infection rates down. Photo by AFP

According to FOPH, after peaking in early November, infections are slowing down in most of the country. Between the first and second week of November, the number of cases dropped by 23.4 percent. 

During the month of October, the positivity rate per 100,000 people was 2101. For the past two weeks, that number fell to 849,2. 

This improvement is most marked in French-speaking Switzerland, where various restrictions were put in place at the end of October to curb record-high numbers of infections. The biggest decrease is in the canton of Jura, which recorded 42 percent less cases. Next are Fribourg (-38 percent), Valais (-36 percent) and Neuchâtel (-35 percent).

READ MORE: Covid-19 in Switzerland: Five reasons to be optimistic 

On the other hand, infection rates in some German-speaking cantons, which have been relatively unaffected by the pandemic, are on the rise.

In Basel City, for instance, increasing infection rates prompted local officials to introduce stricter coronavirus measures from Monday. 

Basel City along with Basel Country, Obwalden and Uri are the only Swiss-German cantons where infections are currently rising.

The R-rate

Another indication that infections are declining is the latest R number— a way of rating the speed at which the disease spreads.

Only two weeks ago, the R rate in Switzerland was 1.05. If this value is greater than 1, the daily number of cases increases exponentially. But if it is lower, they decrease.

Now the nationwide average is 0.78. Experts say that if Switzerland can maintain this rate, the daily number of new infections will be halved every 14 days. 

“This looks like a trend reversal”, said FOPH’s director Anne Lévy. 

“I am confident that we are going in the right direction”, she added.

Hospital admissions and deaths

The number of hospital admissions is also slowly dropping, though it still remains high.

According to FOPH, the rate of hospitalisations was 243 per 100,000 people on November 11th. That number dropped to 13 cases per 100,000 on the 19th. 

The number of coronavirus-related deaths is also declining, although the numbers are still high.

From 95 cases per 100,000 on November 12th, the number fell to 37 on November 19th. 

Authorities say there is approximately a three-week delay between the time a patient is admitted to a hospital and their death. So, the latest numbers are likely still related to patients who were hospitalised before the infection rates dropped.