What have Swiss authorities learned from the first wave of the coronavirus epidemic?
Nearly all experts predict that Switzerland will experience a rebound of coronavirus infections later this year. Based on their current knowledge of the disease, will health officials be able to control the second wave?
On Wednesday, The Federal Council has announced its plan to end most of Covid-19 restrictions in June, thanks to a steadily declining number of new cases, hospital admissions, and deaths.
While everyone agrees that Covid-19 will be around, infecting more people, until a vaccine is developed, "we now know that it is possible to control this virus”, Switzerland’s president Simonetta Sommaruga said during a press conference on Wednesday.
Health Minister Alain Berset also said he is confident “that everything we have learned together over the past few months will not be forgotten anytime soon”.
When it first struck Switzerland at the end of February, coronavirus was an unknown disease which has created an unprecedented health crisis.
“But we know much better now how to protect ourselves. We will remain pragmatic”, Berset added.
The ‘learning curve’ will not be as high in the future because health professionals now are more familiar with managing these areas:
Social distancing and hand hygiene
According to health authorities, these two protective measures — keeping a two-metre distance and frequent hand washing — are effective in preventing virus transmission from one person to another.
These measures will continue to be practiced, Berset said, especially when the current limit on gatherings will increase from five to 30 people on May 30th, and up to 300 on June 6th.
Berset stressed the importance of identifying contaminated people to quickly break transmission chains and control the spread of the disease.
For example, the maximum of guests per table in restaurants can now exceed four, as has been the rule since May 11th. But larger groups will be required to register, with the information of each attendee to be kept for two weeks, so they can be notified if an outbreak is subsequently detected.
Since no medications currently exist specifically for Covid-19, Swiss hospitals treated coronavirus patients with hydroxychloroquine, originally intended to treat malaria.
However, doctors realised that this medication is not only ineffective against coronavirus, but it can have serious side effects as well.
For that reason, Switzerland’s two largest medical centres, Lausanne’s and Geneva’s university hospitals, have stopped prescribing hydroxychloroquine, using instead another medication, Remdesivir, to treat the virus.
Unless a better drug is found by the time a second wave comes, hospitals will continue to use Remdesivir in the future.
When the first wave struck, hospitals in Switzerland were not ready to handle the influx of Covid-19 cases and had to re-organise themselves urgently to accommodate those patients.
Now medical facilities throughout Switzerland are prepared to receive coronavirus patients. At Geneva’s University Hospital (HUG), for instance, “68 new beds and 380 work stations were put in place to respond to any new Covid-19 epidemic”, the HUG said.