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COVID-19

Coronavirus: EU warns healthcare capacity could be exceeded

The risk is high that European healthcare systems will be overwhelmed by the new coronavirus outbreak, the EU's health agency warns.

Coronavirus: EU warns healthcare capacity could be exceeded
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also called for a slew of measures to be implemented to halt the spread of the deadly disease – including quarantines of confirmed or suspected carriers and bans on mass gatherings.

The Stockholm-based agency said on Thursday that systems in EU countries and the European Economic Area (EAA) – Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway – along with Britain could be overstretched.

“The risk of healthcare system capacity being exceeded in the EU/EAA and the UK in the coming weeks is considered high,” the ECDC said in a statement.

It also recommended “social distancing” measures at workplaces and cancellation of non-essential work travel and meetings, as well as measures to be taken at schools, including possible closures.

And it urged “cordon… of residential areas with high levels of community transmission”.

Meanwhile, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said in a Twitter post that measures to curb the spread of the disease were “more than ever necessary across EU”.

“Only with aggressive containment action can we delay the transmission of COVID-19. Many member states have already taken far-reaching measures, impacting the daily lives of our citizens and economy,” Kyriakides said.

There are more than 22,000 people infected in Europe, where nearly 950 people have died from the illness. The vast majority, however, experience only mild symptoms and fully recover.

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COVID-19

‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, Stadler said.

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?

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