Second coronavirus wave in Switzerland could result in ‘up to 5,000 deaths’

Using mathematical models, Swiss researchers have mapped the deadly potential of a second wave of the coronavirus.

Second coronavirus wave in Switzerland could result in 'up to 5,000 deaths'
A mask on the ground in Lausanne. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

The model predicts that a second wave could be far more deadly than the first, with up to 5,000 victims. 

According to researchers at ETH Zurich, who based their findings on figures from the cantons, a second wave of coronavirus would spread more slowly than the first wave. 

This is primarily as the public is now aware of the necessary distancing and hygiene measures to be undertaken. 

Covid-19: How severe will the second wave be in Switzerland? 

According to the model, this would result in far fewer infections than in the first wave – meaning that hospitals were less likely to be overloaded. 

On Sunday, Switzerland's health spokesman Daniel Koch warned of a potential coronavirus second wave in winter

Complacency a potential factor

The researchers found that a major factor in underpinning the deadliness of a second wave was complacency among the population, particularly where this led to members of the public no longer following social distancing and hygiene rules. 

Head researcher Dirk Mohr said in a statement that authorities needed to be ready to put distancing requirements back in place immediately – while the public also needed to be aware that the battle has not yet been won. 

“If the public doesn’t actually see the strain on the capacity of hospitals, people might not take the threat seriously or understand why restrictive measures are necessary.”

“To prevent as many deaths as possible, the authorities have to enact measures at a point when the hospitals are not near collapse.”

If distancing rules were adhered to, the number of fatalities could be as low as 1,000. Figures current as at May 27th show that 1,901 people have died as a result of the coronavirus in Switzerland. 

Schools may be closed again

The researchers found that adolescents were “heavily involved in spreading the virus”, while those in the 35 to 45-year-old age brackets also made a higher than average contribution to its spread. 

If schools were allowed to remain open during a second wave, the tally could go as high as 5,000. 

Mohr said that it was necessary to consider adopting ‘excessive’ measures in order to halt the spread – particularly if the reproduction rate (R-Rate) rose above 1. 

“We have to be aware that if the reproductive number is over 1, it’s worth taking measures in the schools, at work and in public. They might seem to be excessive in certain cases, but they save lives.”


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Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I’m abroad?

Given how expensive health insurance premiums are in Switzerland, you may be tempted to suspend your policy while you are abroad. Is this possible?

Reader question: Can I put my Swiss health insurance on hold if I'm abroad?

Unlike the obligatory car insurance, which you can suspend temporarily by depositing your registration plates at the local motor vehicles office, rules pertaining to health insurance are much stricter.

As the Federal Office of Public Health explains it, “If you leave the country for a certain period to travel or study but do not take up residence abroad, you are still required to have [health] insurance in Switzerland”.

In other words, as long as you are a registered resident of Switzerland, regardless of your nationality or passport, you must keep your compulsory Swiss health insurance and pay your premiums. While you do this, you also remain covered against most medical emergencies while you travel.

However, rules are less stringent for supplemental health plans which can, in some cases, be put on hold, depending on the insurance provider, according to Switzerland’s Moneyland consumer website.

The only exception allowed for suspending the health insurance coverage is during a military or civil protection service which lasts more than 60 consecutive days.

“During these periods, the risks of illness and accident are covered by military insurance. Your health insurance provider will refund your premiums”, according to FOPH.

Under what circumstances can you cancel your Swiss health insurance?

Swiss law says you can cancel your insurance if you are moving abroad, either permanently for for a period exceeding three months.

If you do so, only claims for treatments given while you still lived in Switzerland will be paid by your insurance; any medical bills for treatment incurred after you officially leave will be denied.

These are the procedures for cancelling your compulsory health insurance if you leave the country under conditions mentioned above

To announce your departure abroad, you must send your insurance carrier a letter including your name, customer number or AVS/AHV number.

You must also include a certificate from your place of residence in Switzerland confirming that you have de-registered from your current address, as well as the date of your departure.

Note, however, that if your new destination is another Swiss community / canton, rather than a foreign country, your insurance can only be cancelled from the following calendar year and only if you present proof of having taken up a new policy with another company.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to register your address in Switzerland

You can find out more information about this process here

If you suspend your health insurance for less than six years, you can reactivate it at a later date with the same company when you return to Switzerland.

READ MORE : What you should know about your Swiss health insurance before you go abroad