Worst-case virus scenario hasn’t happened, official says

Ventilators: in high demand. Keystone / Isopix / Daina Le Lardic / Pool

Some 280 people are currently on respiratory support in Swiss hospitals, according to the latest update from federal authorities. But intensive care units are not yet overrun.

This content was published on March 28, 2020 - 15:30

Daniel Koch from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) told press on Saturday that the current scenario in the country is not as catastrophic as it might have been.

“The worst-case scenarios which we forecasted a few weeks ago have not occurred,” he said.

Ten days ago, Koch had declared that situation in the southern canton of Ticino, especially, was “dramatic”, and that the health system there risked being completely overwhelmed.

Some 1,052 new cases of coronavirus were nevertheless reported by the FOPH on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total above 13,000. Its tally of fatalities stood at 235, slightly less than that calculatedExternal link – using regional aggregations – by some researchers and media.

Koch also said that the 280 patients currently on respiratory support around the country signified “a huge number”, but that no intensive care unit was overrun, and that respirators remained available.

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As for whether the social distancing and lockdown measures introduced by the government on March 16 are having an effect, Koch declined to speculate. Not enough data is available and “it’s too early to draw conclusions,” he said.

No end in sight

Health Minister Alain Berset, meanwhile, told La Liberté newspaperExternal link on Saturday that the corona crisis “will not be over by mid-May”.

It’s wrong to assume that the epidemic will hit, pass, then disappear, he said. Experts say that the virus is going to stick around, and that the only solution will be to develop a vaccine – which will take time. He called for the Swiss response to remain “flexible” and “modest”.

Berset also said that the possibility of a full lockdown and confinement of the population – like that in operation in France or Spain – is not completely off the table, should the situation worsen.

“It’s a very tough measure, but has never been fully ruled out for Switzerland,” he said. However, “what counts are not the measures taken from above, but people’s behaviour.”

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