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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

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

After several months of a relatively low number of coronavirus cases in Switzerland, the rate of infections rose by over 22 percent in a span of seven days this week. What measures are Swiss health officials planning to prevent a new wave?

OUTLOOK: Could Switzerland introduce Covid rules this autumn?

The Swiss government has said that “further waves of infections are to be expected in the fall/winter of 2022/2023″.

As in previous waves, “the main objective of managing the pandemic is to prevent an overload of the health system. It is currently difficult to predict the magnitude of the waves of infection and, therefore, the burden on the healthcare system”, it added.

According to current estimates, “it can be assumed that ordinary structures will be sufficient to manage the situation”.

However, unless new, deadly variants emerge in the near future, health officials  expect the new wave to be milder than the ones  that struck in the winter of 2020 and 2021.

There are several reasons for this optimism:

Higher immunity

Due to vaccinations and infections, “it is estimated that 97 percent of the Swiss population has been in contact with the virus”, which means that “immunity within the population is currently high”, authorities said.

Lighter course

This means that unlike the early Covid strains like Alpha and Delta, which were highly virulent, the latest dominant mutation — Omicron and its subvariants — while highly contagious, are also less dangerous for most people.

New vaccines

The new version of the Moderna vaccine, which should better target certain sub-variants of Omicron, will be rolled in Switzerland from October 10th.

Compared to the original vaccine, which was effective mostly against early strains and offered no protection against Omicron, “the new vaccine produces a stronger immune response against the Omicron variants BA.1 and BA.4/5″, according to the drug regulatory body, Swissmedic.

READ MORE: BREAKING: Switzerland approves new Covid-19 boosters

Is the government planning any specific measures this winter?

While the severity of the new wave is not yet known, authorities have made several ‘just-in-case’ provisions by, for instance, extending the Covid-19 law until June 2024.

This legislation, which was approved in a referendum in November 2021, allows the Federal Council to maintain and apply emergency measures that are necessary to manage the pandemic. Without the extension, ithe law would lapse in December of this year.

READ MORE: Covid-19 law: How Switzerland reacted to the referendum results

“No one wants to reactivate the Covid law. But after two years of the pandemic, we have understood that we must be ready”, said MP Mattea Meyer.

While no mask mandates or other restrictions are being discussed at this time, the re-activated legislation would allow the authorities to quickly introduce any measures they deem necessary, according to the evolution of the epidemiological situation.

More preparations from the cantons

As it would be up to the cantons to apply measures set by the federal government, some have asked that financing be made available in case regional hospitals have to again accommodate patients from other cantons.

They are also making sure enough intensive care beds are ready for Covid patients.

What about the Covid certificate and tracing?

Though it is no longer used in Switzerland, the certificate continues to be required abroad.

The government will ensure its international compatibility.

The legal basis for the SwissCovid tracking app will also remain in force and can be reactivated during the winter of 2023/2024, if necessary.

MPs are also debating possible rules to be enforced for cross-border workers in the event of border closures.

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