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HEALTH

‘We have enough tests’: Switzerland calls on Swiss to get tested

Swiss health officials have urged anyone experiencing symptoms to get tested. Switzerland currently tests less per positive case than most European countries.

'We have enough tests': Switzerland calls on Swiss to get tested
A coronavirus testing sign in the UK. Photo: BEN STANSALL / AFP

Despite strong test capacity, the Swiss populace appears reluctant to get tested. 

Switzerland has one of the lowest test positivity rates in Europe – meaning that fewer people are tested for every positive case. 

After lagging behind the majority of Europe in testing, Switzerland has unveiled a new campaign to encourage members of the public to get tested. 

READ: Why does Switzerland carry out so few coronavirus tests?

Entitled ‘Have symptoms: Get tested’ the campaign encourages anyone experiencing “fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, chest pain, loss of smell and / or taste” to get tested immediately. 

 

 

The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) is concerned that too few people have been getting tested for the virus and hopes to boost testing rates. 

The Swiss GP and Child Medicine Association believes that Swiss people either fail to take their symptoms seriously or don’t think they need to take a test. 

“One possible explanation for this development is that, due to the currently slightly decreasing number of cases, the need for tests, even with only mild symptoms of the disease, is not sufficiently recognised by the population,” the Association wrote

 

‘We have enough tests’

In launching the campaign, FOPH spokesperson Virginie Masserey said people should not be concerned about a lack of tests – or that they would be forced to pay. 

“There is enough test capacity, so all people with symptoms should be tested,” she said. 

“The tests are free if the criteria is met.”

The FOPH has an online quiz to be completed to see if a test is necessary. 

The test can be completed here in less than 60 seconds and is available in four languages including English, German, Italian and French.

‘Insufficient testing’

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. 

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 Organisation (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.”

More information about testing can be found here

 

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HEALTH

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.”

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