Top Swiss health official optimistic about infection rates

Leading the way up - health officials are optimistic that an easing of restrictions on public life will not result in a sudden rise of Covid-19 infections. Keystone/Georgios Kefalas

The Swiss government’s delegate on the coronavirus says he is optimistic about containing the pandemic despite the further easing of restrictions in the country.

This content was published on May 11, 2020 - 17:51

Daniel Koch said he was convinced that the rate of infections, hospitalisations and deaths due to Covid-19 could drop even further.

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“Provided people continue to respect the rules on hygiene and social distancing, further restrictions on public life can be lifted soon,” Koch told a news conference on Monday.

He said he felt relieved about the current situation, which has seen rates of new infections and deaths drop in recent weeks. As of Monday, the country had registered over 30,000 infections and 1,837 deaths.

“I’m not worried about a sudden rise in the number of figures because of the easing of restrictions. I trust in people’s sense of responsibility.”

His comments came as shops and restaurants re-opened, school classes for children under the age of 16 resumed and public transport re-introduced regular services.

However, a ban on mass events, including concerts and sports competitions as well as church services, has remained in place. Gatherings of more than five people are also still outlawed under emergency rules imposed by the government in mid-March.

Koch said the current trend of declining Covid-19 cases was the result of the population’s discipline in heeding the safety rules.

The next step in the government’s strategy is to resume a strict tracing of patients and their environment to avoid the virus spreading again, Koch said. He urged all people with flu-like symptoms to get tested for Covid-19.

He also assured elderly people or those with pre-existing health conditions that it was safe to leave their homes and apartments while respecting the safety precautions. The Federal Health Office has also issued updated recommendations for cantonal authorities on easing conditions for visits to nursing homes.

Enough masks

Meanwhile, a senior defence ministry official says Switzerland now has enough medical equipment – including protective masks, gloves and ventilators – to cope with a new crisis.

Martin Näf said the government had provided up to 18 million hygiene masks for sale in retail shops and both national and cantonal authorities had a stock of material that could last for at least 40 days.

He pointed out that Switzerland had always kept a stock of face masks over the past weeks and months, dismissing reports of shortages.

Näf said Switzerland would continue to buy additional supplies, and that it has so far only used a small part of the CHF2.45 billion ($2.5 billion) budget set aside by parliament to acquire such material.

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