Omicron officially dominant in Switzerland

Omicron is now the dominant coronavirus variant in Switzerland and has even caused triple-jabbed people to be admitted to hospital, officials said Tuesday.

An ambulance outside Geneva University Hospital. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
An ambulance outside Geneva University Hospital. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland has one of the highest infection rates in continental Europe, with people in their 20s the most affected, officials told a press conference in the capital Bern.

Around 55 percent of Swiss cases are now due to Omicron, and the variant is soon expected to represent almost all recorded infections.

The country has registered around 40 cases of people who had received a “booster” third vaccine dose but nonetheless ended up in hospital with the Omicron strain, said the health ministry’s crisis management chief Patrick Mathys.

More than 13,000 new Covid-19 cases were announced Tuesday, with the figure expected to reach 20,000 per day in January.

Switzerland, a country of 8.6 million people, has recorded more than 1.27 million positive tests during the pandemic.

IN NUMBERS: Which Swiss cantons have most Omicron cases?

The wealthy Alpine nation is battling its fifth wave of the pandemic and Mathys said there was no respite in sight.

People must reduce their number of contacts due to Omicron, “but everyone can do it — it’s pretty simple,” he said.

Covid-19 patients currently occupy 40 percent of the available intensive care beds.

Some hospitals are at full capacity but transfers to other hospitals were working well, said Rudolf Hauri, head of the cantonal medical chiefs’ association.

“In terms of virulence, the Omicron variant seems weaker than Delta,” said Tanja Stadler, head of the Covid-19 Scientific Task Force — though this could be down to the level of vaccination among the population.

Some 67 percent of the Swiss population has received at least two vaccine doses, with 22 percent having had a third injection.

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

Though Covid has not been a nationwide problem in Switzerland during recent several months, the virus is circulating again and rates of contamination are expected to soar in the coming weeks.

'Over a million people' in Switzerland could be infected with Covid this summer

While the new wave has not been expected to hit before fall or winter,  Swiss health officials now say 15 percent of Swiss population — more than 1 million people — could catch the virus before then.

This is a large number, considering that a total of 3.7 million people in Switzerland got infected since the beginning of the pandemic on February 24th, 2020.

“More than 80,000 new contaminations per week” are expected in the next two months, according to Tanja Stadler, the former head of the Covid-19 Task Force — much more than during the past two summers, when the rate of infections slowed down.

At the moment, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reports 24,704 new cases in the past seven days — double of what it was in April.

“The numbers are expected to continue to rise. Note that most of infected people will not be tested, so the number of confirmed cases will be smaller on paper than in reality”, Stadler added.

Although according to FOPH, nearly all cases in Switzerland (99 percent) are caused by Omicron and its sub-variants, which are less severe that the original Covid viruses, “more vulnerable people are likely to end up in hospital, and long Covid cases are also likely to rise”, she said.

Stadler also noted that Omicron virus can’t be compared with the flu, “because we observe long-term consequences much more often during an infection with Omicron than during the flu. Also, Covid can trigger very large waves, even in summer, while large flu outbreaks are rare at this time of year”.

There is, however, some positive news.

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

Also, “in the long term, things will stabilise. But in the years to come, there will probably be waves in the summer too”.

READ MORE: UPDATE: When will Switzerland roll out second Covid boosters?