After becoming the primary coronavirus in circulation in February, the variant could be responsible for almost all infections in Switzerland in April.
This was the forecast given by Patrick Mathys, head of the crisis management unit at the Federal Office of Public Health at a press conference on Thursday.
Cases linked to the mutated virus now represent between 2 and 5 percent of all samples sequenced in Switzerland, Martin Ackermann, president of the Covid-19 Task Force, pointed out at the same press conference on Thursday.
But the new variant is expected to now spread quickly throughout Switzerland.
“The comparison of the curves between Great Britain, Denmark and Switzerland is showing strong similarities, so we can expect exponential growth”, Ackermann said.
He added that “already by February, the mutated virus could become the dominant one in Switzerland, and by April-May it could be present in almost all contaminations”.
While scientists don’t know for sure whether the new strain will respond well to the Covid vaccine, they believe the outcome will be positive.
“Currently, there is nothing to suggest the mutations that occur will resist the effectiveness of the vaccine”, Claire-Anne Siegrist, head of the vaccine unit at Geneva’s university hospitals (HUG) said.
On Wednesday, the Federal Council announced new restrictions to go into effect across Switzerland on January 18th in an effort to curtail the spread of the mutated virus.
“We can now see that the new variant is much more contagious. We currently have exactly the same situation in Switzerland as the UK had at the beginning of December. And this knowledge should allow us to have a third wave under control”, Health Minister Alain Berset said on Wednesday.
The new strain, which is thought to have first appeared in the London and Kent areas of the UK in September 2020, is reported to be up to 70 percent more contagious than other strains. But even though the mutated virus may spread faster, it doesn’t appear more likely to cause severe illness or death.
It is believed that the coronavirus mutation has been present in Switzerland since early December but it imploded just before Christmas with the arrival of thousands of British tourists to Swiss ski resorts.