Covid-19 ravages Tour de Suisse cycling race

A total of 93 riders set off on the sixth stage from Locarno on Friday, while 28 riders did not appear at the start. © Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Multiple cases of Covid-19 have caused chaos at the Tour de Suisse cycling race in Switzerland, forcing three teams and numerous riders to pull out.

This content was published on June 17, 2022 - 12:04

Overall leader Aleksandr Vlasov tested positive the day after winning the fifth stage, the Russian rider's team said. Bora-Hansgrohe team member Anton Palzer also tested positive on Friday morning.

The Alpecin-Fenix, Bahrain Victorious and UAE Team Emirates teams also withdrew from the sixth stage from Locarno to Moosalp on Friday, one day after the Jumbo-Visma squad left the eight-day race, which finishes Sunday.

Swiss rider Marc Hirschi of UAE Team Emirates also tested positive and is out of the race, while his roommate, Joel Suter, was withdrawn as a precaution, the team said.

“Unfortunately, like many other teams we have also had a surge in Covid-19 cases,” UAE team medical director Adrian Rotunno said.

The Israel Premier Tech and Education EF teams have also withdrawn several riders.

Tour de Suisse organisers have decided to continue the race despite the growing number of Covid-19 cases. The Swiss race is one of the last events to prepare for the three-week Tour de France, which starts in two weeks.

Surge in new sub-variant infections

European countries are experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the highly infectious Omicron strain, threatening a fresh global wave of the disease.

Most European countries have so far detected low rates of the two subgroups. But in countries where the proportion has risen - such as Portugal - there have been surges in overall cases, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on June 13.

Switzerland External linkannounced the lifting of all remaining Covid-19 pandemic restrictions as of April 1. However, after three months of falling infections, new coronavirus infections have started rising again slightly, most likely due to two new Omicron subvariants, BA.4 and BA.5. A total of 16,610 new cases were reported on June 14 for the previous seven-day period. The seven-day daily average for new infections stood at 2,124, up 45% on the previous week. 

BA.4 and BA.5 do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other forms of Omicron. But an increase in case numbers from higher transmission rates risks leading to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, the ECDC said.

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