Switzerland has registered 17,634 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, according to figures from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH).
This is the highest number of new daily infections since the pandemic began in March 2020 and is the first time the daily case figures have topped 17,000.
“The situation is extremely unfavourable”, said Patrick Mathys, FOPH’s head of the crisis management section.
This increase in infections is in line with a recent analysis by the Covid-19 Task Force, which warned that “a number of cases exceeding 20,000 per day by the second week of January is a plausible scenario” for Switzerland.
The Geneva University Hospitals (HUG), Switzerland’s largest medical facility, expects to be “under very strong tension” until the end of February, according to its director, Bertrand Levrat.
He added that 69.6 percent of the samples at the HUG screening centre turned out to be positive, a situation he qualified as “unheard of”.
Hospitals in Zurich, Solothurn, Lucerne and Fribourg have also warned of overcrowding in ICUs, with each seeing a higher than 90 percent occupation rate as at December 28th.
Doctors in Lucerne have warned that triage will soon start, while Zurich has postponed both urgent and non-urgent medical procedures.
Doctors in each of the affected cantons have called upon people to get vaccinated to relieve some of the stress on the hospitals.
Omicron behind case increase
One major reason for the increase is the spread of the Omicron variant, which experts believe is more transmissible than existing variants.
The Omicron variant is now dominant in Switzerland.
Around 57.8 percent of current cases are due to Omicron, with the variant expected to soon account for all Covid cases in Switzerland.
While some experts have suggested Omicron is less dangerous than existing variants as it causes a less severe course of the disease, this is as yet unclear.