Switzerland puts army into effective quarantine over coronavirus fears

Switzerland puts army into effective quarantine over coronavirus fears
After an active member tested positive, the Swiss army has taken a number of strong steps in relation to the coronavirus outbreak, including cancelling events and secluding themselves from the public.

As reported in Swiss daily 20 Minutes, the entire active service contingent of the Swiss army – around 10,000 soldiers – are now effectively in quarantine. 

Events which involved interactions with the public have now been cancelled, while top-level meetings between senior staff officers will now happen via video conference rather than in person. 

UPDATE: Number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland continues to rise

Soldier tests positive for the virus

A solider who had recently visited Milan has tested positive in the canton of Bern. The man was quarantined in the infirmary of the battalion at Wangen an der Aare, with the three soldiers he had shared a room with also placed in quarantine. 

Anyone else the man had contact with was also placed in overnight quarantine on Monday evening. 

READ: What you need to know about coronavirus in Switzerland

The army stands ready

Although the army will continue to hold recruitment schools and refresher courses as per usual, measures have been taken to seclude service members from the general public. 

As the army said in a statement, service personnel must be ready at all times to intervene to protect the civilian population. 

“The army, as the strategic reserve of the national government, is ready to support the civilian authorities and the population at any time”,

With any positive confirmation leading to an entire company or battalion being quarantined, the army said that the measures were necessary.

Visiting hours to the army have been cancelled until at least mid-March. 

Sleeping ‘top and tail’

Active service members have also been instructed to change the way they sleep in order to minimise the chance of transmitting the virus. 

Service members sleeping in the same room have been told to sleep ‘head to tail’, i.e. with their feet in line with the head of the soldier in a neighbouring bed. 

Swiss Army spokesman Daniel Reist told 20 Minutes on Tuesday that the measures were an additional protection against the spread of the disease. 

“At the moment, the members of the army take turns sleeping with their heads in one direction and their feet in the other. In this way, the distance between people is kept as large as possible despite the limited space.”


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