Court orders detention of oldest Swiss prisoner

The oldest prisoner in Switzerland will remain in detention a Geneva court ruled in overturning a decision to interrupt his sentence for medical reasons.

Court orders detention of oldest Swiss prisoner
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The 89-year-old man, sentenced to ten years behind bars in 2010 for raping his adopted daughter, suffers from cancer and is currently being detained in the prison unit of Geneva’s university hospital (HUG).

The appeal court’s judges ruled that the man’s detention did not endanger the man’s health and that his treatment in hospital was neither degrading nor inhumane, given that he was benefiting from very good palliative care, the prisoner’s lawyer told the ATS news service on Thursday.

The lawyer, Yaël Hayat, confirmed an earlier report published by Le Temps newspaper on its website.

Hayat said she regretted the judges’ failure to consider the matter from the point of view of the age of the detainee.

Hayat said she is awaiting the results of a new medical report on the prisoner before deciding whether to appeal the case to Switzerland’s supreme court.

According to doctors who diagnosed that the man had cancer of the prostate at the beginning of the year, he had only ten to 18 months to live, ATS reported.

In March, a tribunal for the application of judicial sentences accepted a request to interrupt the man’s jail sentence when Hayat argued that “humanity should prevail over crime”.

The prosecutor’s office in Geneva remains firmly opposed to any such release given the “dangerous” nature of the prisoner.

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Switzerland warned it could face a third wave of Covid-19

Swiss health experts say that if restrictions currently in place continue to be relaxed, the country could experience a significant increase of infections this winter.

Switzerland warned it could face a third wave of Covid-19
HUG is expecting more Covid cases this winter. Photo by AFP

The number of contaminations has been steadily decreasing in the past few weeks, even though Switzerland has not followed its neighbours in implementing the tough rules like a total shutdown or curfew.

Even the New York Post wrote in its Wednesday edition that “Switzerland cuts new COVID-19 infections in half without national lockdown”.

In the article, Basel’s cantonal doctor Thomas Steffen is quoted as saying that “the Swiss special way has worked. The slowdown has reversed the infection trend”.

However, Steffen also warned that while “the development of the past few weeks is positive, we shouldn’t fool ourselves”.

In fact, some health officials are predicting that if the measures currently in place, including the limit on the number of people allowed to gather together, are loosened, the epidemiological situation in Switzerland would worsen dramatically.

Tribune de Genève published on Thursday a diagram created by Geneva’s University Hospitals (HUG), showing that if the restrictions are lifted, the new wave of hospitalisations will reach a daily peak of nearly 1,000 by the end of January — two-thirds higher than that of November.

“The circulation of the virus is still strong in Switzerland”, Isabella Eckerle, co-head of HUG’s Centre for Emerging Viral Diseases, told the newspaper.

She added that “If we continue to relax the restrictions and people move around a lot at Christmas, there will be an upsurge in cases from mid-January, followed by the third wave in February”.

READ MORE: Switzerland set to tighten coronavirus measures until Christmas: reports 

Antoine Flahault, director of the Institute for Global Health in Geneva, said the predicted increase in the infection rate is likely to be exacerbated by the cold weather.

“Covid has a clear seasonal component that could have a strong effect in boosting the rate of reproduction of the virus,” he said.

Flahault noted that the combination of cold weather and Christmas celebrations are likely to “substantially accelerate the spread of the virus in communities”.

Julien Riou, epidemiologist at the University of Bern, also said that if restrictions are lifted, “contaminations will pick up again very quickly”.

What can be done to avoid the third wave?

It comes down to personal responsibility, Flahault said.

“It's what people do individually that can prevent a third wave”, Flahault said.

“The ability to control the virus after deconfinement will depend on the ability to trace contacts and isolate infectious people”, Riou pointed out.

And the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine, expected in Switzerland at the end of January, will also help.

“We must not lose the battle when we are almost at the end”, Riou said. “We have to to stay the course for a few more months”.

So is HUG being alarmist in predicting the third wave this winter?

“It's reasonable for hospitals and health authorities to set scenarios in order to prepare, but we believe that no mathematical model can predict the situation beyond seven days”, Flahault said.