Bern boy dies after being hit by glacier rock

An 11-year-old boy from the canton of Bern died on Sunday after succumbing to injuries suffered while traversing the Gorner Glacier near Zermatt during an Alpine training course.

Bern boy dies after being hit by glacier rock
Gorner Glacier, with Matterhorn visible at left. Photo: Pawel Kuzniar

The boy was with a group of seven adults and six children who had spent the previous night at the Monte Rosa mountain hut at 2,883 metres, Valais cantonal police said.

They descended from the hut in the direction of Rotenboden with the intention of taking the train from Zermatt, police said in a news release.

They crossed the Gorner Glacier in two groups roped together, with eight in the first group and five in the second, police said.

At around 11.15am, a piece of rock suddenly became detached above the route and struck the boy, who was the fifth person in the first group, according to the news release.

A member of one of the groups immediately contacted emergency services, police said.

Medics transported to the site by helicopter tended to the gravely injured boy who was flown by Air Zermatt to a hospital in Bern.

He died at the hospital at 1.45pm, police said.

The prosecutor’s office for the canton of Valais has launched an investigation to determine the causes of the accident.

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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.