Covid-19 in Switzerland: Five reasons to be optimistic

Covid-19 in Switzerland: Five reasons to be optimistic
Various measures, like rapid testing, help lessen the impact of the pandemic. Photo: AFP
In its press conference on Tuesday, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) told Swiss public that they are "cautiously optimistic" about curbing the spread of coronavirus, even though "second waves are tough and usually last longer".

These are the five reasons outlined by Swiss health officials.

The number of cases is dropping

FOPH reported 5,980 new corona cases on Tuesday. A week earlier it was 6,126.

In addition, there were 73 fewer hospital admissions of Covid patients within this time period.

While the number of daily infections is still very high when compared with the situation at the peak of the pandemic in March and April, “the signals are pointing in the right direction”, health authorities said.

Free hospital beds

A few weeks ago, officials feared the overcrowding of intensive care units (ICUs). In fact, some hospitals in the French-speaking cantons had to transfer several patients to less burdened medical facilities in the Swiss-German part.

At the moment, however, 28.6 percent of all beds are still available, as Andreas Stettbacher, Federal Council's representative for the coordinated medical service, said on Tuesday.

This means that 318 out of 1,109 ICU beds in Swiss hospitals are free. In all, Covid-19 patients occupy around a fifth of all critical-care hospital beds.

Reproduction rate (R)

This is a way of rating Covid's ability to spread.

The current R rate in Switzerland is 1.05. It means that 10 infected people contaminate an average of 10.5 people.

While the goal is to keep R below one, “the current rate is lower than it has been in months”, officials said.

Rapid tests

Introduced in several Swiss cantons this week, these 'rapid antigen tests' which yield a result within 15 to 20 minutes – rather than 24 to 48 hours for conventional tests – will enable more positive cases to be detected sooner.

“The goal of this strategy is to detect as many infections as possible. This is the only way of systematically breaking chains of infection, which is key to managing the epidemic,” FOPH said.

Several hundred of these tests are currently carried out every day, and the trend is rising, officials said.

Vaccine

While not ready for use yet, a new coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech pharma companies is showing 'high efficacy' at this stage of the testing process, FOPH said.

This is only one of several vaccines being currently developed and tested, and the government signed contracts with several different producers.

Since it is still not clear which vaccines will ultimately prevail, the government is taking a diversified approach. 

This means that rather than focus on just one vaccine and one manufacturer, the government signed contracts with several different producers to “ensure that Swiss public gets rapid access to Covid-19 vaccines” once they become available, authorities pointed out.

Earlier this week, Health Minister Alain Berset also noted that the situation in Switzerland is “no longer deteriorating”.

He warned, however, that “it is too early to speak of a trend reversal. We must not give up now”.

The improvement is credited to restrictions which were implemented by the federal government and various cantons in the past two weeks. 

The measures include the requirement to wear masks indoors and outdoors in crowded spaces, limit on the number of people allowed to gather together in public and private, and the closure of various entertainment and sports venues.


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