Covid-19 situation remains stable but tense, say Swiss officials

As of November 24, the positivity rate for Covid-19 tests carried out in Switzerland was 20.4%. Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Health officials in Switzerland report that while overall figures are improving, some intensive care units are still under pressure. A vaccine will not arrive before 2021, they say.

This content was published on November 24, 2020 - 17:23

Virginie Masserey of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) told journalists in Bern on Tuesday that a vaccine would likely not be available before the first half of next year.

Authorities are discussing plans as to how to distribute and rollout a vaccine – which would first need to be approved – but that no further details were currently available, she said.

Switzerland recorded 4,241 new positive Covid-19 cases on Tuesday – a clear downward trend compared to a fortnight ago, when the country was recording cases numbers above 8,000 per day.

Some 142 new deaths were also recorded. Masserey said that the death rate compared to the number of cases in Switzerland was rather low in comparison with other nations – which she said testifies to the quality of care in the country.

However, although the situation in intensive care units is starting to stabilise, things remain tense in some regions, she added. Coronavirus patients occupy 60% of ICU beds, with 260 places still free across the country.

Masserey once again urged citizens to get tested if they have symptoms – especially at the beginning of an infection, people are at their most contagious, she said.

Cutting the ‘R’ number

Martin Ackermann, head of the scientific taskforce that advises public policy on the pandemic, also said on Tuesday that current trends showed the country was on its way to achieving the goal of cutting case numbers in half each fortnight.

The taskforce’s hope is that a reproduction rate number between 0.7 and 0.8 would achieve this “milestone” and lead to Switzerland recording less than 500 new daily cases at the beginning of next year.

Currently, he said, French-speaking cantons in Western Switzerland – which a few weeks ago were the hardest-hit, and which thus took tougher measures – have managed to lower their r-rate more than German-speaking cantons, which are all above the national average of 0.78.

The positive trend should help to ease the pressure on hospitals, contact tracing staff, and indeed the economy, Ackermann said – particularly the tourism industy, which is facing a difficult winter season.

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