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COVID-19

When will the Covid pandemic end in Switzerland?

That question in on many people’s minds, in Switzerland and elsewhere. And while nobody has a crystal ball, some epidemiologists say the health crisis may be nearing its end soon, thanks to Omicron.

Could the pandemic be over in Switzerland by the time the snow melts? Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash
Could the pandemic be over in Switzerland by the time the snow melts? Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

Is it possible that, even amid soaring infections impacting the healthcare system, the Covid pandemic may actually be winding down in Switzerland?

It is a possibility, health specialists say.

According to Rudolf Hauri from the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors, “we will overcome most of the pandemic by the spring, as the baseline immunity will be high enough”.

That’s because the highly contagious Omicron variant, which is now dominant in Switzerland, will infect at least 50 percent of the country’s population in a few weeks’ time, said Richard Neher, member of the Covid-19 Task Force.

READ MORE: Omicron officially dominant in Switzerland

All that’s needed is for the Omicron variant to continue to spread at the rapid current rate, he added.

Epidemiologist Christian Drosten is also optimistic about the end of the pandemic.

Fully vaccinated individuals may soon be living in a “completely normal state and the pandemic will be over for these people”, although masks may still have to be worn in closed public places for some time, he said.

Infectious disease specialist Huldrych Günthard from University Hospital Zurich sees a positive evolution on the health front  as well.

“The pandemic should be over by the summer”, as long as ​​more people are vaccinated, and the unvaccinated become infected, he said.

These are best-case scenarios for Switzerland, but they can become a reality only if certain conditions are met.

For Günthard, it is that no vaccine-resistant variant appears in the meantime.

And some more jabs may be necessary to finally overcome the pandemic, according to Drosten.

In addition to current boosters, “a fourth vaccination adapted to the Omicron variant” in the summer could be “necessary for everyone in order to end the pandemic. For groups at risk or the elderly, the fifth shot may even be necessary in the winter of 2022”, he noted.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: Which Swiss cantons have most Omicron cases?

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COVID-19

‘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?

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