On Saturday, it appeared Switzerland had recorded its first child victim of the coronavirus, until the victim was found to be 109 rather than 9.
The reason? The country’s outdated medical record-keeping system, which relies primarily on fax rather than electronic record-keeping, had recorded that the victim was born in 1911 rather than 2011.
Over the same week, a similar error saw one 87-year-old victim recorded as being 27 years of age – due to a similar failing.
Children and young people have been largely unaffected by the virus in Switzerland and elsewhere – meaning that the reports represented a significant departure from the existing data in Switzerland.
As at April 29th, there have been just under 1,700 deaths in Switzerland due to the virus – however nobody under the age of 30 has died in Switzerland and only six people between the ages of 30 and 50 have passed away due to Covid-19.
Fax and manual data entry
In many parts of the country, Switzerland’s medical database systems rely on fax machines and manual entry.
A spokesperson from the FOPH told Swiss daily 20 Minutes that both of the errors were caused by manual entry after reporting was made via fax.
The Tages Anzeiger reports that doctors’ decisions to spurn the country’s electronic reporting system in favour of fax machine transmission has led to several errors since the outbreak began.
Finding accurate data has also been a major problem for media organisations, with cantonal reporting often not matching that of the Federal Office of Public Health in Geneva.
According to the Swiss Medical Association (FMH), the majority of the country’s doctors still use fax machines to report coronavirus cases, even though the FOPH has asked that reports be made via electronic means.