Why doctors in Switzerland want to cut back on testing children for Covid-19?

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Why doctors in Switzerland want to cut back on testing children for Covid-19?
Covid-19 test administered to children can be painful. Photo by FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

Swiss health authorities and pediatricians are planning to test fewer children for coronavirus, which, until now, has been recommended at the slightest symptom, such as a cold or a sore throat.


Among the reasons that prompted some pediatricians want to reduce routine screening is that positive cases are very rare.

Also, intrusive nature of the procedure, which involves taking a swab of the nose and the back of the throat, is trying for young children.

“We are not going to screen a child who has just an isolated cold or conjunctivitis, because we have noticed that the positive smears are almost at zero ", the president of the group of Vaud pediatricians, Claude Bertoncini, told RTS television.

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), in collaboration with pediatricians and cantonal doctors, will soon publish a new recommendation on testing children.

But some health professionals argue that screening must be kept up and remain a priority in the fight against Covid-19.

"The smear in the nose is a tedious process," pediatrician Alessandro Diana, who is specialist in infectious diseases at Geneva’s university hospital (HUG) told the RTS.

“These tests are burdensome but the game is worth the effort: if you are in doubt about this disease, you should rather do a test than not do it”, he added.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: What is the coronavirus situation in Switzerland now? 

The HUG, as well Lausanne’s university hospital, CHUV, have observed a significant jump in screening of children in recent weeks, ever since schools re-opened in Switzerland on May 11th.


According to Katia Jaton, head of the molecular diagnostic laboratory at the Institute of Microbiology, colder weather in recent weeks and the viruses that go with it could partly explain this increase.

The debate in Switzerland over children’s susceptibility to coronavirus infections is not a new one.

Swiss health officials have insisted that young kids are not vectors of infection or transmission.

“Based on the current knowledge, few children get infected with the Covid-19 virus”, Daniel Koch, former head of the infectious diseases unit at the Federal Office of Public Health said in April. 

But there have been cases in Switzerland and elsewhere of children dying of Covid-19.

At the end of May, an infant died in a Zurich hospital, after contracting the virus while in Macedonia. 

Also in May, a nine-year-old boy, with an underlying health condition, died in France from the Kawasaki-like disease believed to be linked to coronavirus.



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