Coronavirus: Switzerland’s intensive care units ‘close to capacity or above’

Despite almost three weeks of shutdown measures, the situation in Switzerland's intensive care units remains critical.

Coronavirus: Switzerland’s intensive care units ‘close to capacity or above’
A health worker is monitoring a patient at intensive care unit for patients infected with Covid-19 at the hospital of La-Chaux-de-Fonds on November 5, 2020. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

In a press conference on Tuesday, Swiss heath officials warned the public to “reduce your contacts even further” as the country’s free intensive care beds continued to dwindle. 

Despite almost three weeks passing since Switzerland put in place a more extensive set of coronavirus measures, hospitalisations and fatalities remain high. 

READ: Switzerland's new coronavirus measures explained

The situation in intensive care beds is particularly dire, with several cantons “close to capacity or above”. 

Not only does this increase the risks for potential coronavirus patients, people with other serious conditions also face higher risks. 

‘We have to take the pressure off the healthcare system’

Virginie Masserey, the Head of Infection Control Section at the Federal Office of Public Health FOPH, said the number of new infections was still too high. 

In several cantons, intensive care bed capacities were already exceeded, with hospitals struggling to add extra beds. 

“We cannot count on the hospitals to constantly increase their acute beds forever,” Mastery said

“We absolutely have to maintain the measures. It remains the only way to take the pressure off the healthcare system. 

While infection numbers have slowed somewhat, they remain high. 

READ: What are the coronavirus measures in every Swiss canton? 

“We assume that the slowdown is due to the measures. But what is decisive is the behaviour of the population,” said Masserey. 

“Reduce your contacts even further.”

Where is the situation critical?

Andreas Stettbacher from the Federal Council Delegate for the Coordinated Medical Service (KSD) said there were 240 free intensive care beds across the country – just 21 percent of the total allocation. 

However, in individual cantons, “intensive care units are close to the capacity limit or above”. 

The situation is particularly dire in Aargau, Fribourg and Solothurn, where capacity has already exceeded 90 percent – while in Glarus ICU patients have already exceeded the canton’s capacity. 

The following chart shows how full each canton’s intensive care units are on a percentage basis. Data for Obwalden and Appenzell Innerrhoden has not been provided.  



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WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

Most new cases of monkeypox are currently detected in Western Europe. The World Health Organisation says this is no reason to cancel more than 800 festivals scheduled to take place on the continent this summer.

WHO says European festivals should go ahead despite monkeypox risk

The World Health Organization said Friday that European summer festivals should not be cancelled due to the monkeypox outbreak but should instead manage the risk of amplifying the virus.

A surge of monkeypox cases has been detected since May outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic.

Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,200 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the WHO from 48 countries in total this year.

“We have all the summer festivals, concerts and many other events just starting in the northern hemisphere,” Amaia Artazcoz, the WHO’s mass gatherings technical officer, told a webinar entitled “Monkeypox outbreak and mass gatherings: Protecting yourself at festivals and parties”.

The events “may represent a conducive environment for transmission”, she said.

“These gatherings have really close proximity and usually for a prolonged period of time, and also a lot of frequent interactions among people,” Artazcoz explained.

“Nevertheless… we are not recommending postponing or cancelling any of the events in the areas where monkeypox cases have been identified.”

Sarah Tyler, the senior communications consultant on health emergencies at WHO Europe, said there were going to be more than 800 festivals in the region, bringing together hundreds of thousands of people from different countries.

“Most attendees are highly mobile and sexually active and a number of them will have intimate skin-to-skin contact at or around these events,” she said.

“Some may also have multiple sexual contacts, including new or anonymous partners. Without action, we risk seeing a surge in monkeypox cases in Europe this summer.”

Risk awareness

The UN health agency recommends that countries identify events most likely to be associated with the risk of monkeypox transmission.

The WHO urged festival organisers to raise awareness through effective communication, detect cases early, stop transmission and protect people at risk.

The outbreak in newly-affected countries is primarily among men who have sex with men, and who have reported recent sex with new or multiple partners, according to the WHO.

People with symptoms are advised to avoid attending gatherings, while people in communities among whom monkeypox has been found to occur more frequently than in the general population should exercise particular caution, it says.

The normal initial symptoms of monkeypox include a high fever, swollen lymph nodes and a blistery chickenpox-like rash.

Meg Doherty, from the global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes at WHO, said: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.

“Stigmatising never helps in a disease outbreak,” she added.

“This is not a gay disease. However, we want people to be aware of what the risks are.”