COVID-19, known more commonly as coronavirus, has spread throughout Switzerland and across the world.
The impact of the virus has been particularly severe in Switzerland, which has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infections per capita.
But while the news coverage may have largely focused on death tolls and the economic impacts of the virus, many of our readers are unaware of the right steps to take if they think they may have contracted the virus and/or have symptoms.
Here is the official guidance on what you should do if you think you may have the coronavirus, including how to get a test.
The initial symptoms are not dissimilar to the common flu, as the virus belongs to the same family.
The symptoms include a dry cough, headache, fatigue, fever, aches, chills and shortness of breath.
Although many of these symptoms are shared with seasonal influenza, those which are especially apparent in cases of coronavirus are fever, dry cough and shortness of breath.
Some patients have also experienced a loss of taste and smell.
Its incubation period is two to 14 days, with an average of seven days.
You can find the latest information about the coronavirus from the WHO.
In order for someone to catch the coronavirus, that person must spend more than 15 minutes within two metres of an infected person, Swiss health officials have said.
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
What should I do if I think I have COVID-19?
If you think you have the virus, do not go to hospital or your doctor's surgery.
Cantonal authorities have warned against going directly hospitals in search of a test, with all hospital visits – along with visits to nursing homes and disability facilities – banned due to fears about spreading the virus.
The Swiss government has set up a coronavirus check up process through an online portal which is available in English (as well as French, German and Italian).
This portal asks a number of questions about you, your history and your symptoms. It will give you an indication as to what you should do.
In addition, the FOPH has also set up a multilingual hotline for questions about Covid-19 available in English, German, French and Italian.
The number, which operates 24 hours a day, is +41 58 463 00 00. People experiencing symptoms should call this number in order to determine whether a test is necessary – and where it should take place.
Each canton also has its own hotline number. The contact details in each canton can be found here.
You should alert health authorities and then self-isolate until you receive further guidance.
Will I get a test for coronavirus?
Due to surging demand and limited resources, not everyone who wants a test for COVID-19 will get one.
People who want to be tested must be showing symptoms of the virus and be in a particular risk group in order to be tested.
People considered to be at a greater risk of complications from the virus are people over 65 years of age, people with high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, diseases and therapies that weaken the immune system and cancer.
As with everything in Switzerland, the exact testing policy varies somewhat from canton to canton – with each medical centre having a degree of discretion as to who they test and who they send home.
People exhibiting symptoms who are not in the risk category will occasionally be tested, however they are encouraged to stay home and let their immune system fight the illness in order to free up the available tests for the most at-risk populations.
Switzerland's Freddie Mercury statue on Lake Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
Symptoms or not, what is the official advice for members of the public?
Switzerland's Federal Office for Public Health has said the risk of contracting coronavirus in the country is “moderate” but that may change depending on the evolution of the outbreak.
Swiss health authorities also laid out a range of recommendations for avoiding the spread in the workplace, including adopting flexible working hours and working from home wherever possible.
FOPH recommended six simple steps to avoid being infected with coronavirus — and prevent its spread to others.
Each of the steps is illustrated with a video:
- Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Cough and sneeze into a paper tissue/handkerchief or the crook of your arm.
- Stay at home if you have a high temperature and a cough.
- Avoid shaking hands
- Always call ahead before going to the doctors or hospital
- Dispose of used tissues in a sealed bin
?️Neues Coronavirus: «So schützen wir uns»: BAG lanciert Informationskampagne für die Bevölkerung https://t.co/c2gFDljiDt
?️ Nouveau coronavirus : campagne d’information de l’OFSP intitulée « Voici comment nous protéger » https://t.co/gPqsrXGJLm pic.twitter.com/y6rZHGC70L
— BAG – OFSP – UFSP (@BAG_OFSP_UFSP) February 27, 2020
FOPH has also set up a multilingual hotline for questions about Covid-19. The number, which operates 24 hours a day, is +41 58 463 00 00.
People who experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and high fever should call this number immediately, FOPH says.
Authorities are also informing travellers at border crossings and airports about the risks posed by coronavirus.
It's a respiratory illness which belongs to the same family as the common cold and influenza, but has been shown in some patients to be more severe.
According to the WHO, more than 80 percent of patients infected with the virus have mild symptoms and recover, while 14 percent develop severe diseases such as pneumonia.
COVID-19 is primarily spread through airborne contact or contact with contaminated objects.