Coronavirus in Switzerland: Why social distancing and hygiene measures are here to stay

Coronavirus in Switzerland: Why social distancing and hygiene measures are here to stay
Only a vaccine can could prevent coronavirus infections. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
On Thursday the Federal Council announced its three-step program to lift some of the restrictions it imposed on the country on March 16th. But the fight to wipe out coronavirus infections is still ongoing.

On April 27th, some of the measures enforced in Switzerland to curb the spread of coronavirus will be lifted. 

But the government pledged to continue its efforts to contain the disease. Even though the number of infections has been dropping, “there’s always the danger of a second wave, and it’s imperative to avoid that”, Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga said during a press conference on Thursday.

As soon as the number of new declared cases goes down to about 100 a day (from the current 200 to 300), the cantons will begin to systematically trace the chains of transmission, the government said

Authorities also plan to reinforce the screenings, to develop a strategy of follow-up of the contacts, and to create an application which will allow them to know if someone has been in contact with an infected person.

READ MORE: Swiss scientists launch a new app to collect Covid-19 data

One measure of the resistance to future infections is the rate of immunity reached by the population.

Scientists believe that if at least 50 percent are immune, the number of contaminations would begin to decrease on its own, even without containment.

If a lot of people become resistant, it's called ‘herd immunity'.

“It is believed, based on our knowledge of other respiratory viruses, especially the flu, that people develop immunity after having an infection”, said Valérie D'Acremont, infectious disease specialist at Unisanté Lausanne, which is part of the city's University Hospital (CHUV). 

She added that “the intensity of immunity probably depends on the intensity of the infection and the ability of the immune system to respond”.

Serological tests, which are just beginning in Switzerland, will make it possible to know if this rate has been reached, but health experts believe it is unlikely. 

Even if there were 10 times more people infected with Covid-19 than those who were confirmed — at least around 26,732 on Friday morning, according to Worldmeter), only 3 percent of the Swiss population would be immune today.

The only way to build resistance to Covid-19, health officials say, is the vaccine, which is being developed but not expected to be available for general use until next year.

Until then, authorities are urging the public to continue practicing social distancing and hygiene measures such as frequent handwashing.

EXPLAINER: Why does Switzerland want to test former coronavirus patients? 


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