EXPLAINER: Can Switzerland handle the coronavirus pandemic?

With more than 2,200 cases now confirmed throughout the country and more expected in the coming days, is the Swiss healthcare system sufficiently prepared to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic?

EXPLAINER: Can Switzerland handle the coronavirus pandemic?
Geneva University Hospital is ready for the influx of coronavirus patients. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /AFP

How many coronavirus patients will have to be hospitalised?

Given the fast evolution of the coronavirus outbreak, exact numbers are hard to predict at this point.

However, Swiss Association of Intensive Care (SSMI) estimates that 15-20 percent of people infected with Covid-19 would have to be hospitalised. Roughly half of these cases, or 5 to 10 percent of patients, will require treatment in an intensive care unit or intermediate care.

Are Swiss hospitals equipped to cope with the increasing number of cases?

According to SSMI, there are 82 intensive care units (ICUs) throughout Switzerland and 850 available respirators (also known as ventilators or breathing machines), which are essential for treating the most critically ill Covid-19 patients. Additionally, the military has 200 respirators that it can make available to hospitals in case of need.

What role will the Swiss army play in fighting the epidemic?

Some 600 soldiers, mostly members of the military medical battalion, are deployed as of this Monday to help “civilian hospitals in terms of personnel and equipment”, said Thomas Süssli, head of the armed forces.

The measure will notably help support civilian hospitals, which may become overburdened if the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.

Aside from the respiratory and monitoring systems, the army will also provide ambulances, stretchers, tents, and medical containers.

“We can make them available where necessary”, the army’s spokesperson said.

READ MORE: Swiss army prepares to deploy to assist coronavirus fight 

What specific measures are hospitals taking to ensure they are ready?

Medical facilities throughout the country have postponed their non-urgent surgeries in order to free their personnel and machinery for the most pressing Covid-19 patients.

“We are busy preparing and setting up adequate infrastructure”, Jérôme Pugin, the head of the ICU at the Geneva University Hospital (HUG) told RTS television

Additionally, the canton of Geneva has requisitioned over the weekend the ICU of the private hospital of La Tour. This measure allows Geneva’s health authorities to have more places in intensive care to deal with the coronavirus epidemic.

“We are going to requisition all the necessary equipment, spaces and professionals”, State Council President Antonio Hodgers told RTS.

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Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?