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HEALTH

Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?

Switzerland’s decision to keep its ski slopes open is behind the wave of coronavirus mutations sweeping the continent, Italy’s health experts said.

Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Italy has laid the blame for the wave of coronavirus mutations sweeping the continent at the feet of Switzerland. 

Walter Ricciardi, the head of the Italian government’s coronavirus task force, said Switzerland’s decision to keep ski slopes open throughout winter allowed the British strain of coronavirus to arrive in Europe. 

“The country that brought the British variant to Europe is Switzerland,” Ricciardi told Italian TV on Sunday, following the government's announcement that Italian ski slopes would stay closed until at least March 5th. 

 “The British went skiing in Switzerland – a country that stubbornly kept the ski facilities open.”

REMINDER: What are the rules for Britons entering Switzerland?

Ricciardi, who is nicknamed “Professor Lockdown” by Italian media, said Italian experts have traced the strains of the virus, which made it clear that the mutated strain arrived in Europe through Switzerland. 

Ricciardi told Italian TV show Che tempo che fa “a teacher on holiday in Switzerland contracted the British variant of the virus and infected practically all of her students when she returned.

From there the variant spread to the rest of Switzerland and Europe”. 

While Switzerland kept most of its ski slopes open throughout winter, each of Switzerland’s neighbours closed their ski resorts for at least part of the season. 

In Germany, France and Italy the slopes remain closed, while in Austria the slopes were closed for most of December. 

In late December, around 300 British tourists “disappeared” from quarantine while on holiday in the Swiss ski resort of Verbier. 

‘You’d laugh if it wasn’t so tragic’: Swiss authorities slammed after Britons escape coronavirus quarantine

 

Member comments

  1. He is absolutely right. The Swiss have never been serious about covid. They are putting hundreds of teachers at risk despite the British variant spreading. No sign of vaccination for teachers who are vulnerable.

  2. here in Australia, many people are astounded with how the UK and Europe have been holidaying in different countries throughout the pandemic. It sure seems an odd way to keep infections down.

  3. Skiing doesn’t spread the virus! It is human stupidity that carries it. Meetings with friends, dinner parties …

  4. Kris Switzerland has not been trying to keep the number of infections down. The government is more concerned about the economy. I wish our leaders placed human lives and health as priorities before the economy.

  5. Skiing keeps people healthy, in body and mind, in the winter. It doesn’t cause viral spread unless you open crowded apres skis. That’s what I’ve learned in Vermont in the US (sking open all winter, lowest infection rates in the country). I also skied in Montana; they’re making it work, without destroying 1000s of businesses that depend on skiing.

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HEALTH

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs

Swiss health costs have been rising in recent years, with further spikes, including in insurance premiums, seen as inevitable. The government is proposing measures to counter this upward trend.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut soaring healthcare costs

Based on the information released by Santésuisse, an umbrella group for health insurance companies, an overall increase of around 4 percent for 2023 will be the norm.

Unfortunately for the consumers, who are already hard-hit by rising energy costs, premiums for compulsory health insurance will likely rise by an average of 5 percent in the fall, according to online price comparison site, Comparis.

And many people could even see their premiums soar by more than 10 percent in 2023 — the sharpest hike in premiums in 20 years.

The exact amounts of premiums for all policyholders will be released by the end of October.

The price hikes are not a new phenomenon per se: over the past 20 years, costs have risen at twice the rate of economic growth, resulting in health insurance premiums that are 90 percent higher than in 2002.

READ MORE: How spiralling costs are jeopardising Switzerland’s healthcare system

Why have these costs been increasing so much?

Part of the reason is the fact that people in Switzerland have a high life expectancy, but as they get older, they tend to suffer from chronic, cost-intensive diseases.

The more recent hikes can be attributed to higher medical costs incurred during the two years of coronavirus pandemic, estimated to cost insurers over one billion francs so far, not even taking into account about 265 million spent for Covid vaccinations in 2021.

Add to that the cost (paid for by the government) of Covid tests, as well as booster shots administered in 2022, and those still to be given once Switzerland rolls out second doses in 2023.

How will the government cut these costs?

Santésuisse has been urging the Federal Council to implement a range of reforms to reduce costs and ensure that not so many are passed on to consumers. 

On Wednesday, authorities announced a package of measures aimed at controlling costs. “These measures will improve medical care and contain rising costs in the healthcare system”, the Federal Council said.

Coordinated networks

These care networks are seen as a way to reduce unnecessary medical services. 

“They bring together health professionals from several disciplines to provide ‘all-in-one’ medical care. They improve coordination throughout the treatment chain, for example when various specialists are caring for an elderly person with several chronic diseases”, Federal Council said in a statement.

Hospitals, pharmacies, and various therapists would be attached to the network, and all treatments “will be invoiced at once, as if it were a single supplier”.

Right now, all service providers invoice insurance carriers separately, which adds to administrative costs; the new system is also believed to provide a better oversight and control, and eliminate unnecessary or redundant medical treatments, Health Minister Alain Berset said during a press conference in Bern on Wednesday.

Faster and cheaper access to medicines

The government also wants to guarantee “fast and as inexpensive as possible access to expensive innovative medicines”.

To achieve this, it wants to “anchor in the law” an already widely-used practice: to conclude pricing agreements with pharmaceutical companies. It would mean that drug manufacturers would have to reimburse a portion of the price to insurers.

“This measure makes it possible to guarantee rapid access to these drugs, while limiting their price”, authorities said.

Electronic invoicing

Another measure will require all providers of inpatient and outpatient services to send their invoices to insurance companies in electronic form — seen as a quicker, more effective and cheaper way to transmit billing information.

These measures “will make it possible to curb the rise in costs,” the Federal Council said, adding that “it is not yet possible to estimate the concrete extent of these savings, which would depend on how the health system will implement the measures”.

It is now up to the MPs to debate these proposals.

READ MORE: Why Swiss health premiums are set to rise — and what you can do about it

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