Coronavirus in Switzerland: Preventive measures ‘should show their effects within 10 days’

There is at last some potentially encouraging news concerning Covid-19: if we all follow the Swiss government’s guidelines, the infection rate could start to fall within a week to 10 days, health experts say.

Coronavirus in Switzerland: Preventive measures 'should show their effects within 10 days'
Federal Council urges strict measures to curtail the spread of coronavirus. Photo by PETER KLAUNZER / AFP

Before the situation improves, however, the progression of positive cases “will probably be exponential”, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said on Tuesday. 

“This is just the beginning of the wave,” said Daniel Koch, head of FOPH’s communicable diseases division. “The numbers will continue to climb in the coming days”.

To date, Switzerland has 2,700 cases of coronavirus and 19 deaths.

The measures are not expected to show their effects until the end of next week, because people who are already infected but don’t know it yet may not have symptoms for five or six days, FOPH said.

Death rates may take several days longer to stabilise.

“We cannot stop the virus, but we can influence the infection curve”, Koch noted.

The encouraging predictions are based on Chinese figures.

In China, where coronavirus originated, the first quarantine measures were introduced in Wuhan on January 20th, before the city completely closed on January 23th, with 15 others shuttered the following day.

Official surveys show that the onset of symptoms began to decrease six days after the first measures were implemented, and that it took several more days for this decline to be reflected in the official statistics. Mortality rates started to drop by mid-February.

FOPH stressed that the positive outcome can be expected only if all Swiss residents follow the strict measures outlined by the Federal Council when it declared a state of emergency on Monday in a bid to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Switzerland declares state of emergency over coronavirus 

The state of emergency imposes widespread restrictions on daily life in Switzerland.

“All public and private events are prohibited.

“All shops, markets, restaurants, bars and entertainment and leisure facilities, such as museums, libraries, cinemas, concert halls and theatres, sports centres, swimming pools and ski areas are to close.

“Also affected are businesses at which the recommended distance cannot be maintained, such as hairdressers and cosmetics studios”, the Federal Council said. 

Schools are closed until at least April 4th (and longer in some cantons), and Switzerland’s borders with Italy, France, Germany, and Austria, are partially shut down as well, with strict controls taking place at all entry points.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Which border crossings are open between Geneva and France? 

The new rules, which also call for hygiene measures like frequent hand washing and ‘social distancing’, and include tele-working and home confinement, are designed to help limit the spread of the virus, especially to older and immune-compromised people.

“The Federal Council calls for members of the public to act responsibly and with solidarity”, FOPH said.

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‘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?