Coronavirus claims fourth victim in Switzerland as number of cases rises to nearly 650

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Coronavirus claims fourth victim in Switzerland as number of cases rises to nearly 650
Photo: AFP

Cases of coronavirus in Switzerland have risen to just under 650, jumping by more than 150 from Tuesday to Wednesday. A fourth person has died.


With just under 500 cases on Tuesday, the increase of 150 is the largest one-day increase since the virus was first detected in Switzerland. 

As at Wednesday afternoon, a fourth person has died in Switzerland, in the canton of Basel Country. The man is the second person to die in the canton, along with deaths in Vaud and Ticino. 

The man was initially hospitalised on March 3rd with pneumonia and tested positive for the virus after his condition worsened. 

The crisis team in Basel said that the man was most likely infected at an event in late February in Mulhouse and had been suffering from chronic health conditions prior to his infection. 

On Wednesday evening, officials in the canton of Ticino declared a state of emergency.

Rising across Switzerland

Two cantons - Ticino (131) and Vaud (108) - are the first cantons to cross the 100 barrier. Geneva (78), Zurich (58) and Basel City (49) also have seen a large increase in cases. 

Updated figures come from cantonal authorities. Official federal government figures are lower as they require additional confirmations from the reference laboratory in Geneva. 

With four positive cases detected in the canton if Nidwalden on Wednesday morning, the virus has now been detected in 23 of Switzerland's 26 cantons. 

On Monday, March 9th, authorities in Zurich said every doctor in the canton was now equipped to test for the virus. 

The virus has already made an impact on the Swiss economy, with experts suggesting that healthcare spending is likely to rise to CHF1.7 billion as a result. 

MAP: Which Swiss cantons have been most affected by coronavirus?

On Tuesday March 3rd, the Federal Council confirmed that there has been a transmission between people in Switzerland for the first time. 

Prior to this, all transmissions had happened in patients who had been overseas. 

In Switzerland, 55 percent of those infected have been men, while 45 percent have been women. 

Switzerland's total brings it into the top ten of countries with the most infected. Four other European countries - Italy, France, Germany and Spain - also are among the top ten, as are China, South Korea, Japan, the USA and Iran. 

Patients mostly doing well

Health authorities report that all the patients are doing well. “In most cases, the disease is mild and harmless," said Daniel Koch, head of the communicable diseases division at the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).

According to FOPH, all those who had been tested positive so far have been either infected in Italy or by someone who had travelled to Italy.

Given the speed with which Covid-19 is spreading, the Swiss government is preparing to face a wide range of scenarios.

"What is true today may no longer be true the day after tomorrow," Health Minister Alain Berset told Le Matin Dimanche on Sunday.

"There will be more cases, it is clear," he said, adding that the most important measure is to contain the evolution of the epidemic.

Precautionary measures

In an interview with the SonntagsZeitung, Berset stressed that each person must follow precautionary measures, in particular by avoiding handshakes and kisses.

People are also be asked to reduce contact with each other, through “social distancing measures”, Koch, told the NZZ am Sonntag

In order for someone to catch the coronavirus, that person must spend more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person, health officials said.

Last week, the government has banned public events of more than 1,000 people. 

Sports events, carnivals, concerts, and exhibits, including the Geneva International Motor Show, have been cancelled until March 15th at least. On that day, depending on the coronavirus situation in the country, authorities will lift or extend the restrictions.

READ MORE: How coronavirus has hit life in Switzerland as car shows and football matches are cancelled

Some locations, like the canton of Bern and the city of Chur have also banned smaller public gatherings.

Health authorities have released new hygiene guidelines on measures people should take to protect themselves and others from catching this illness. Additionally, the government has set up a multilingual hotline for questions about Covid-19. The number, which operates 24 hours a day, is +41 58 463 00 00.

READ MORE: Switzerland publishes new coronavirus advice and launches multilingual hotline

Travel is also being affected.

After suspending its flights to mainland China, SWISS is also reducing its services to some Italian destinations. “As a consequence of the Covid-19 coronavirus, SWISS has decided, together with the Lufthansa Group, to reduce its frequencies to and from Italy until the end of March”, the airline announced on its website.

Flight restrictions are in effect to and from Milan, Bologna, Turin, Verona, Venice, Trieste, and Genoa.

“Any customers whose flights are cancelled through the above actions may rebook free of charge or have the cost of their ticket refunded”, the airline added.

Avoiding 'mask hysteria'

Health officials have frequently told the general public that healthy people should not wear masks and to refrain from purchasing them as they make it more difficult for sick people and medical professionals to access them. 

According to the WHO, around 80 percent of people who contract the new coronavirus recover without needing special treatment. 

Around one out of every six people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing. 

Some 3.4 percent of cases are fatal, according to the latest WHO figures. Older people and those with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.



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