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COVID-19

MAPS: Where are Switzerland’s coronavirus hotspots right now?

The number of infections has risen significantly in Switzerland in the past weeks, reaching levels similar to those recorded in November 2020. Here’s an overview.

Switzerland’s Covid hotspots are in the eastern and central part of the country.
Swiss hospitals, like Vaud’s university medical centre, are not yet saturated with Covid patients, but the situation may change. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

From about 1,600 new cases at the end of September, the number of infections has soared exponentially to 6,169 on November 19th, mirroring the epidemiological situation at the same time in 2020, when over 6,700 new contaminations had been recorded in Switzerland.

READ MORE: Is Switzerland delaying imposing new measures due to Covid referendum? 

However, there are some differences between then and now.

In the fall of 2020, swathes of the country and linguistic regions had been impacted. Right now, the pockets of infection are concentrated in eastern and central Switzerland, with contamination rates in Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Schwyz, Nidwalden, Obwalden, and St. Gallen double the national average of 602,34 cases per 100,000 inhabitants..

This chart from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) shows where the hotbeds of infection are currently.

The rate of infections in French-speaking cantons and Ticino, on the other hand, is well below the national average, contrary to the fall of 2020, when these regions, especially Geneva, were among the hardest hit.

Another major difference between now and the same period in 2020 is the number of Covid-related hospitalisations and deaths.

Hospital admissions

In mid-November of last year, 262 coronavirus patients were hospitalised in intensive care units; this number is currently 154.

The vast majority of these patients are in Appenzell Innerrhoden and Schwyz.

The relatively low and geographically contained current hospitalisation rate is the reason why Switzerland announced on November 18th that it will not be following Germany and Austria’s lead of restricting bars, restaurants and events to the fully vaccinated and those recovered from the virus

READ MORE: Switzerland rules out making restaurants ‘vaccinated only’ despite Covid case record

FOPH statistics also shed light on the number of vaccinated versus unvaccinated Covid patients: as this chart shows, far more unvaccinated people were admitted to hospitals.

Deaths

Despite the spike of infections, deaths from coronavirus have remained relatively low — 15 new deaths as of November 19th versus 97 for the same period in 2020. Most were recorded in Appenzell Innerrhoden, with several cantons not reporting any deaths at all.

Here, as in case of hospitalisations, deaths among the unvaccinated are higher than among the immunised, despite (misleading) claims to the contrary.

READ MORE: Covid-19 in Switzerland: Why number of deaths among the vaccinated is misinterpreted

However, both hospitalisation and death numbers reported by FOPH are between several days and two weeks delayed, so it is more than likely that the real rates are higher.

What is the epidemiological outlook for the coming weeks?

So far, the pattern is in line with predictions by health experts who forecast the worsening of the situation with the arrival of cold weather, which drives people indoors where the virus can spread more easily.

READ MORE: Covid-19 in Switzerland: The situation is improving, but will it last?

Also, while a number of people received their shots during the Vaccination Week from November 8th to 14th, Switzerland’s inoculation rate still lags behind the EU’s, which means a large proportion of the population remains unprotected against coronavirus.

Image: Our World in Data

All this indicates that the number of infections is likely to keep going up in the near future.

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COVID-19

Switzerland: How likely is another Covid-19 wave this fall?

Over the border in France, experts say a new wave of Covid in autumn is 'virtually certain', but in Switzerland authorities seem less worried.

Switzerland: How likely is another Covid-19 wave this fall?

After a relative lull in the pandemic in the spring, Covid-19 cases surged at the beginning of the summer, driven by new, fast-spreading Omicron sub-variants.

The weekly reports on the epidemiological situation from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) show that the number of new cases kept steadily increasing until about the middle of July, when it peaked at about 56,000 new cases reported in Switzerland in a single week.

From then on, the numbers have been dropping steadily, with 18,204 new infections recorded this week.

What can we expect in the coming weeks and months?

One thing we have learned in the past two and a half years is that coronaviruses are unpredictable, and their evolution (or the emergence of new sub-variants) can’t be forecast with a high degree of certainty.

For instance, health experts did not foresee this summer’s outbreak, believing – based on the experiences of previous waves – that infections are more common in the autumn and winter when cold weather drives people indoors.

READ MORE: ‘Over a million people’ in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

It is also difficult to predict what new sub-variants and mutations could emerge in the future, or what properties they will have.

Next wave and hospitals

Health officials in neighbouring France believe that a surge of Covid cases in the autumn is ‘virtually certain’.

Given the geographic proximity and the flow of people between the two countries, it is reasonable to expect the same scenario to unfold in Switzerland as well.

However, Swiss experts say they believe that even if there is a new wave, most people will have only mild or moderate symptoms.

“The most recent data shows that 97 percent of the adult population in Switzerland has antibodies against Covid thanks to vaccinations and previous infections”, said Tanya Stadler, former head of the Covid-19 Task Force.

Based on the current evolution and forecasts, authorities say they don’t expect the health system to be overloaded with new Covid patients.

This is because “circulating sub-variants of Omicron do not cause more severe forms of the disease than the previous sub-variants”, the government said.

Vaccines

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine (representing a fourth dose for most people) is already available to people in high-risk groups, but while authorities are urging people to get vaccinated, they also say that if Omicron remains the dominant variant, no mass vaccinations will be needed in the near future.

“The current vaccine does not provide clear protection against the Omicron”, according to Giuseppe Pantaleo, head of the immunology unit at Vaud university hospital (CHUV).

That may change soon, however: both Pfizer and Moderna have asked Switzerland’s drug regulatory body, Swissmedic, to authorise their Omicron-adapted vaccines.

The agency is now reviewing the applications but once approved,  the new vaccines are expected to be used for the second round of booster shots, with the rollout for general public to begin sometime in the fall.

READ MORE: Covid boosters not available in Switzerland until autumn

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