Why does Switzerland carry out so few coronavirus tests?

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Why does Switzerland carry out so few coronavirus tests?
A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a Swiss army reservist. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

According to new figures, Switzerland is carrying out far too few tests to adequately chart the spread of coronavirus. Only four European countries - all of them in Eastern Europe - test less per positive case than Switzerland.


Despite the sophistication of its healthcare system and its comparative wealth, Switzerland is still not carrying out enough coronavirus testing. 

According to new figures put together by Our World in Data and published in Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung, only four countries - Poland, Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania have tested less than Switzerland over the past seven days. 

The ‘tests per case’ is another way of explaining ‘test positivity’, which refers to how many tests need to be carried out in order to identify one positive coronavirus case. 

Switzerland over the past seven days has carried out 3.7 tests per positive case. 

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Poland (2.1), Bulgaria (2.6), Croatia (3.4) and Romania 3.6) are the only other countries in Europe who carry out fewer tests per positive case. 

Denmark leads Europe, with 60.2 tests per case, followed by Turkey (50.3), Norway (35.9) and Finland (34.1). 

The World Health Organisation suggests that 10-30 tests per case should be considered an international benchmark for adequate testing. 



‘Insufficient testing’

According to the NZZ, the data shows that testing in Switzerland is ‘insufficient’, adding that the results are ‘surprising’ and that the data indicates the virus is spreading ‘uncontrollably’. 

This is surprising, because the number of tests in Switzerland is insufficient in relation to the number of infections,” the NZZ writes.  

“This is indicated by the proportion of positive tests. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this should be less than 5 percent. In Switzerland it is currently still at 22.8 percent and thus at a very high level. 

“This development is alarming, as very high positivity rates indicate that the virus is spreading uncontrollably. 

“The number of tests carried out in Switzerland is therefore not sufficient to be able to understand the infection process.”



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