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Coronavirus update Swiss infection rate will take a week to slow

Masked people at a hospital

Hospitals have been reinforced with military and civilian service help.

(Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott)

The rate of new coronavirus infections in Switzerland will not ease for around another week, says a top health official. The number of cases saw its biggest daily rise of 1,273 on March 21, bringing the total number of infected to more than 6,100 with 56 deaths.

The government has banned gatherings of more than five people, warning that CHF100 fines will be handed out to violators. Daniel Koch, head of communicable diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health, said it would take several days for the new restrictions to slow infection rates.

“I am confident that we will probably see a flattening of the curve in a week. I am also confident that our death rate will remain much better than that of Italy,” Koch told a press conference. “But only if the population now adheres very strictly to the requirements.”

But Koch made it clear that a flattening of the curve would not signal that Switzerland is out of danger. While acknowledging that the situation in canton Ticino, bordering Italy, remains severe, Koch said that the health infrastructure is coping with the load. There are still enough intensive care beds and hospitals are working to increase that number.

The government has declared an “extraordinary situation”, allowing it to enforce restrictions across the country under the powers of the Epidemics Act. However, canton Uri appears to have overstepped the mark by ordering people aged over-65 to remain at home.

The government has recommended that people stay at home whenever possible but has not expressly ordered curfews, said Justice ministry official Martin Dumermuth.

Strict border controls had seen 16,000 people refused entry into Switzerland by March 21. The number of private cross-border crossings has plummeted 77% but goods transport across borders remains normal, customs official say.

Simonetta Sommaruga, who holds the rotating Swiss Presidency for 2020, has written an open letter to the country, calling for all people to work together to counter the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.



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