With more coronavirus outbreaks, did Switzerland reopen nightclubs too soon?
A number of new outbreaks in nightclubs across Switzerland have cast significant doubt on the country’s model for reopening nightlife venues.
Zurich cantonal authorities announced on Tuesday afternoon that numerous cases of coronavirus had been identified in bars and clubs across the canton, Switzerland’s most populous.
On Sunday, June 29th, Swiss authorities announced the temporary closure of Zurich’s flamingo club after a ‘superspreader’ event led to several positive coronavirus tests and required 300 people to quarantine.
News has now emerged of several further outbreaks at Swiss bars and nightclubs, with patrons receiving messages that they may be infected, with some being told to quarantine.
On Wednesday, Swiss media reported that revellers who attended Zurich’s Plaza Club on June 26th that they “may have had contact with a person suffering from Covid-19”.
A text message from the cantonal medical service told attendees “it cannot be ruled out that they were exposed to the new corona virus and infected.”
Partygoers were not forced to quarantine, but were told to avoid crowds and contact a doctor if they had symptoms.
Attendees at Terminus in Olten, Solothurn on Saturday, June 27th have been asked to quarantine after a case of coronavirus was confirmed.
The club wrote on Facebook that an attendee had tested positive.
Owner Dušan Nedeljković told 20 Minutes: “We were of course shaken by this news. You don't want any reports about positive corona tests - and certainly not if it affects a visitor to your own establishment”.
The news of the outbreaks came just one day after two further outbreaks were detected in Zurich and in the neighbouring canton of Aargau.
300 people were told to quarantine after attending the Flamingo Bar in Zurich, while 20 people have tested positive among 100 attendees at the Tesla Bar in Spreitenbach.
Flamingo Club in Zurich forced to close
Around 300 revellers who attended the Flamingo Club on June 21st were told to quarantine.
A man tested positive for the virus after visiting the club, with five other attendees also testing positive after developing symptoms of the virus.
The incident has been reported in the Swiss media as the country’s first ‘superspreader’ event.
Swiss authorities said on Tuesday they wanted to see the club closed for breaching lockdown protocols.
An assessment of the guest list submitted by the club showed fake names, email addresses and incorrect telephone numbers, while authorities also believe not all attendees were required to fill it out completely.
Authorities said one third of the information given was fake or inaccurate.
Pursuant to the directive, the earliest the club can open is July 6th.
A representative from the cantonal authorities told Swiss tabloid Blick that the club needed to remain closed until it provided a ‘protection concept’ which would show how it would comply with lockdown requirements.
Zurich health director Natalie Rickli (SVP) criticised the club for allowing "fake names" to be recorded, saying "it can't go on like this".
"Next weekend will show whether it works better. If this is not the case, we reserve the right to close clubs."
R-Rate rises above 1.5
Figures from Tuesday, June 30th, have shown that the coronavirus r-rate - the crucial metric which showcases how the virus is spreading through the community - has risen above 1.5.
The estimated rate, based on figures from the first two weeks in June, shows that the virus is transmitting at between 1.4 and 1.8 in Switzerland.
The R-Rate in Switzerland rose above 1 on June 18th and has climbed steadily ever since.
The reproductive number for COVID-19 in Switzerland is now estimated using an improved method. The results are very concerning, Reff is currently 1.4-1.8. Details on https://t.co/aLFakRJvSJ. Many thanks to @sbonhoeffer @Jana_Huisman J Scire&D Angst! @BAG_OFSP_UFSP @eggersnsf pic.twitter.com/S1tDHpuDjm— Tanja Stadler (@TanjaStadler_CH) June 28, 2020
The number of newly detected infections has been on the rise in Switzerland in recent days, averaging more than 50 after being in single figures at the start of June.
What is the R number anyway?
The basic reproduction number is one way of analysing a disease's ability to spread. It represents the average number of people that a person with coronavirus will pass the virus onto.
An R0 (R naught or R zero) of 1 means that each person infected with the virus is passing it on to one other person. Experts have said that the novel coronavirus, known officially as Sars-CoV-2, has a reproduction number of between 2 and 3, but there is debate and different estimates on this.
Amr Aswad, an evolutionary virologist based at Berlin's Free University told The Local Germany the R value is "a very important number".
"It's one that's generated through modelling so different models might give you slightly different answers. But fundamentally, as we all know, we need to keep it below 1."
However, there are other ways to measure how the disease is spreading, such as the number of infections.
"The R0 tells you a lot but it's not the complete picture and it should always be considered alongside the absolute number of infections," said Aswad.