Swiss health chiefs answer five key coronavirus questions

Swiss health chiefs answer five key coronavirus questions
Patrick Mathys, left, head of crisis management at FOPH, answered questions on the novel coronavirus. PETER KLAUNZER / POOL / AFP
From 'Why doesn't Switzerland disinfect the streets?' to 'How many people are tested?' Swiss health chiefs have been answering some common questions abut coronavirus.

In a media conference on Tuesday afternoon, representatives from the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) held a press conference to answer some commonly asked questions on the coronavirus. 

From comparing the treatment practices of other countries to understanding why the counts of confirmed cases and fatalities can differ significantly in different government and media outlets, Patrick Mathys, Head of the Crisis Management and International Cooperation Section of FOPH, answered a number of questions as reported on Swiss daily Watson’s live blog

READ: Switzerland opens first drive-through coronavirus testing centre

Why doesn’t Switzerland disinfect public places like streets?

From Taiwan to Brazil, the media has circulated images of streets being sprayed and disinfected for coronavirus. 

When asked whether this was effective – or just a spectacle to relax the public – Mathys said it was most likely the former.

“I would especially attribute this to the spectacle. That may be well received on the television pictures, but the benefit of it, I would say, is very small.”

“Very few people run their faces across the street.”

Why doesn’t Switzerland publish data on how many people have recovered from the virus?

Some countries not only publish figures on confirmed infections and deaths, but also how many people have had the virus and healed. 

Switzerland does not do this – the current ‘healed’ count as per the Johns Hopkins Institute is only 131 – despite almost 9,000 people contracting the virus.

In China, for instance, 72,814 have been confirmed as healed from the virus of a total infected count of 81,498. 

Mathys: “I keep wondering about this question”. 

“With flu, we don’t ask ourselves this. It’s basically simple: either you die from the coronavirus or you recover.”

How many people are being tested in Switzerland? 

As it currently stands, there are approximately 8,800 positive cases in Switzerland so far – with 120 fatalities from the virus. 

Mathys said that there have been around 71,000 negative tests in Switzerland so far. Mathys also said that around 8,000 tests are now being conducted daily. 

As reported by The Local Switzerland on Tuesday, Switzerland has one of the better testing regimes when compared to other countries.

Only the United Arab Emirates, Norway and South Korea have tested more people per capita than Switzerland.

THat's due to Switzerland upping the number of daily tests to around 8,000 a day compared to 2,500 at the beginning of the epidemic.

However it's mainly those in risk groups with Covid-19 symptoms who are being tested rather than everyone with symptoms.

How does the situation in Switzerland compare to other countries? 

As reported by The Local Switzerland on Tuesday, Switzerland has the second-highest rate of coronavirus infection per capita in the world, after Italy. 

Mathys said it was difficult to make accurate comparisons between countries, largely because testing regimes differ everywhere.

While saying that figures from different countries could be compared in a discussion around treatment measures, “no country actually knows how many people are infected”. 

What about Zurich’s blood-testing process?

Mathys said the federal government was interested in the blood-testing regime currently being practiced in Zurich, however only from an experimental perspective. 

Blood tests would be valuable in the future as they would give the government the ability to see who had previously had the virus and healed, getting a better idea of how widely the virus had actually spread in the public. 



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