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HOSPITALS

Covid-19: How Swiss hospitals are preparing for influx of new patients

As infection rates are skyrocketing in Switzerland, hospitals in various regions are implementing new measures to handle hospitalisations linked to the resurgence of coronavirus.

Covid-19: How Swiss hospitals are preparing for influx of new patients
CHUV in Lausanne is one of Swiss hospitals ready to treat coronavirus patients. Photo by AFP

There has been a sharp increase in the number of cases reported in Switzerland this week, almost quadrupling the highest number of infections recorded previously. 

“The second wave has come earlier and stronger than we thought,” Health Minister Alain Berset said. 

The number of hospitalisations has been soaring as well – in the past 14 days, the number of people admitted to hospital due to coronavirus complications went up  from 177 to 622, according to Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). 

During the peak of the pandemic in March and April, the Swiss health care sector was not overwhelmed, having had sufficient resources to treat all patients needing coronavirus-related care.

In fact, Swiss hospitals took in 30 coronavirus patients from France, especially from Franche-Comté and Grand Est regions, whose medical facilities were saturated. 

What is the situation now?

The first thing to know is that capacities of intensive care units, where most urgent Covid-19 patients are treated, vary from one canton to another.

The preparedness level may not be the same in cantons which don’t have large university hospitals with extensive resources and capacities.

To get prepared to handle the new onslaught of patients, hospitals must know how they can increase their capacities quickly.

To answer these questions, a team of researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) developed a monitoring system which forecasts over seven days the influx of patients, predicts needs, and redirects patients to other medical establishments.

The system focuses on intensive care units, where there are fewer beds but where more staff and equipment is needed.

This is the current situation in some parts of Switzerland:

Geneva

Geneva’s University Hospitals (HUG) estimate that the second wave of Covid-19 will be at least as serious as the spring outbreak. Between October 15th and 20th, the number of coronavirus patients has more than doubled to 169 people, 20 of whom are in intensive and intermediate care. 

“We are very worried,” Geneva’s State Council President Anne Emery-Torracinta said.

The HUG has now been transformed into a hospital dedicated exclusively to Covid-19, as it was in the spring. This means that only urgent surgeries are maintained; non-essential interventions are suspended. Additionally, post-operative facilities will now be used as Covid units.

And as was the case in the spring, private clinics have been mobilised to treat coronavirus patients, relieving the pressure on public hospitals. 

READ MORE: Swiss sound the alarm as coronavirus cases double Swiss sound the alarm as coronavirus cases double

Vaud

The number of patients is increasing rapidly in the intensive care unit of Lausanne’s University Hospital (CHUV), doubling in just one week.

CHUV’s director Philippe Eckert said the hospital had and still has space to accommodate additional patients, including 12 intensive care beds. And it is already preparing additional infrastructure “that may be needed very soon”.

“We will probably have to reduce certain activities from next week to free up employees,” Eckert said.

“We anticipated this wave. We are ready,” he added.

Fribourg

“The number of infected people has increased from 13 to 60 in ten days,” the hospital spokesperson said.

Five Covid patients, including three on respirators, are now in the intensive care unit, against one 10 days ago.

Valais

The canton, which has recorded a significant increase in the number of infections, is also getting prepared for the onslaught of patients.

According to Eric Bonvin, head of the Valais Hospital, “we are experiencing an increase in the number of hospitalisations linked to complications from Covid — 90 people, including six in intensive care”. 

The hospital is not at full capacity at the moment, but in a “critical” situation” nevertheless, Bonvin added. 

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COVID-19

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists

Switzerland’s Montreux Jazz Festival announced on Friday that it was forced to drop the acts of four UK-based artists from its summer program because they haven’t been fully vaccinated yet.

Switzerland's Montreux Jazz Festival cancels concerts of unvaccinated British artists
British singer-songwriter Rag'n'Bone Man was dropped from Montreux Jazx Festival. Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP

The move was done in order to comply with current Covid-19 entry rules into Switzerland, which state that from June 26th, travellers from outside the Schengen zone, including Brits, will only be allowed to enter Switzerland if they have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the virus. 

READ ALSO: Switzerland relaxes travel rules for vaccinated Americans and Brits: What you need to know

British soul singer Rag’n’Bone Man who was one of the headliners for the 2021 edition of the festival, which starts on July 2nd, will now no longer be able to attend due to not being fully vaccinated.

Other unvaccinated acts based in the UK who were also dropped because of the new entry rules include Inhaler, Alfa Mist and the Yussef Dayes Trio.

The artists have already been replaced with other performers from around Europe including Italian singer Zucchero, Woodkid, Dutch songwriter Benny Sings and Danish jazz trio Athletic Progression.

In a statement on June 25th, festival organisers said they were trying to make sure that the concerts of the other UK artists would continue to go ahead, however it is tricky because of fears over the Delta strain of the Covid virus, which has now become dominant in Britain.

“Whether or not these artists can come depends on their vaccination status and that of their touring entourage, as well as their ability to quarantine at the start of their European tour or before their concert at Montreux,” they said.

The Montreux Jazz Festival is one of just a small handful of big music festivals in Switzerland that will still go ahead this summer. Other music events such as St Gallen Open-Air, Paléo and Bern’s Gurten festival have been cancelled for the second year in a row, due to ongoing fears over the Covid-19 virus.

READ ALSO: UPDATE: What rules do European countries have for travellers from the UK?

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