Swiss Covid-19 cases down, but hospital capacity remains major concern

Virginie Masserey, who heads up infectious disease control at the federal public health office, said that it is too early to say if the measures to contain the virus are working. Keystone / Peter Schneider

The slight decline in new daily infections is a positive sign, but it’s too early to say that measures put in place a couple of weeks ago were working, according to Swiss public health authorities.

This content was published on November 3, 2020 - 17:11

Switzerland reported 6,126 new daily infections on Tuesday, down from a high of more than 9,000 last week.

Virginie Masserey, who heads infectious diseases at the Federal Office of Public Health, said this represented a slightly slower growth of new infections but that it was too early to say if the situation was stabilising.

“We’re seeing a slight flattening of the curve,” she said at a press conference on Tuesday.

Many cantons are above the national average, which is 1,000 new daily cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past 14 days.

Rudolf Hauri, president of the Swiss Association of Cantonal Officers of Health, added that it was not enough to see a decline but that it must be sustainable in order to avoid overloading the health system.

Amid rising cases, the Swiss government has announced a series of measures to contain the virus. These include a nationwide mask obligation for all indoor areas as well as limits on the number of people in public and private gatherings. Some cantons have put in place stricter measures than the nationwide restrictions.

Masserey said it was too early to determine in detail whether the measures were working. However, it was clear that there had been a decline in the mobility of the population. “This should encourage us to continue implementing the measures,” she said.

‘Health catastrophe’

The development in hospitalisations continues to be a cause for concern, Masserey said. There are currently 3,200 people in intensive care units of Swiss hospitals, of which 45% are Covid-19 patients.

“We still have reserves,” she said. There was still 27% more capacity in intensive care units, she added, “but if the numbers continue to grow as they have been, the intensive care units will be full in five days”.

“The infections muss go down quickly so that hospitals are not overwhelmed,” she said.

Hospitals in some cantons are reportedly already reaching their limits, prompting additional measures. Some hospitals have postponed non-urgent medical interventions. Canton Valais has transferred some non-Covid patients to other cantons to free up space.

From Wednesday cantons Fribourg, Neuchâtel and Vaud will close bars, restaurants and museums.

Fribourg has emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot in recent days.

Nicolas Blondel, a specialist in general internal medicine in the canton, warned that Fribourg was “on the verge of a health catastrophe”.

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