Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Thursday

Find out what's going on in Switzerland today with The Local's short round-up of the news.

Today in Switzerland: A round-up of the latest news on Thursday
Basel is Switzerland's coldest town today. Photo by AFP

Ticino laboratory has developed potential coronavirus treatment

The Biomedicine Research Institute (IRB) in Bellinzona has developed a new antibody, capable of protecting not only against Covid-19, but also against its variants. It can also stop the virus from mutating. 

While still in the testing  phase, the antibody-based molecule, called Cov-X2, shows promising results. “We tested the virus of the English variant, and the antibody works without any problem, as it does for the standard virus”, said IRB’s director Luca Varani. 

He added that the antibody “is also effective against the South African and Brazilian variants”. 

More is known about Switzerland’s first case of Brazilian coronavirus mutation

Health authorities announced on Tuesday that the first — and so far the only — case of the Brazilian variant of coronavirus has been recorded in Switzerland. 

Now more information has been released about this patient, who is in isolation in a Zurich hospital.

Cantonal health office confirmed that the woman “belongs to a risk group and has suffered from other previous illnesses”.

She has been in contact with someone who travelled to Brazil.

Brazilian variant is one of three detected in Switzerland. The others are the South African mutation and the one from the UK, which is the most widespread to date.

Why the residents of Basel should dress warmly today

On Thursday, the northeastern city of Basel is expected to be Switzerland’s coldest spot, with temperatures dipping to -5.2 degrees Celsius.

Such low temperatures are unusual in Basel. 

“Normally the cold comes to us via the Lake Constance region, but this time it hits exceptionally strong via northwestern Switzerland. As the lowest point, Basel is virtually the gateway for the cold. From there it spreads to the rest of the country”, said Meteonews meteorologist Roger Perret from Meteonews.

READ MORE: Switzerland set for cold snap this week 

Swiss doctors form a Covid sceptics association

Some 90 physicians from across Switzerland have joined an association of doctors who either doubt the existence of the virus or oppose the measures imposed by the government. Or both.

The group’s founder, Andreas Heisler, a physician in Ebikon, canton Luzern, was ordered by health authorities to close his practice for refusing to wear a mask. Originally from Germany, he is an opponent of all the corona protective measures, as are all the members of his association. 

Heisler routinely issues medical certificates dispensing people from wearing masks, even the patients he has never seen. “And I’ll continue doing that”, he said.






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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.