Swiss health official says virus infection wave may last to early summer

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset urged residents to follow the government's advice, keep their distance, stay at home and remain “resilient” and “united”, despite the good Easter weather on the horizon. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

The current wave of coronavirus infections sweeping across Switzerland should be over by early summer, a top Swiss health official said on Tuesday.

This content was published on March 31, 2020 - 18:34
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"We're counting on an epidemic wave that will have not only a swelling aspect, but also one that wanes, and will not last for years, but rather has a visible time horizon," Daniel Koch from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) told reporters in Lucerne on Tuesday. "We're assuming that this wave will be over by early summer."

As of March 31, 16,250 people in Switzerland have tested positive to the virus and 395 people have died, according to an aggregate of cantonal statistics. Ticino, Vaud, Geneva and Basel-City are the worst affected cantons.

Switzerland has so far carried out 123,000 tests and has opened a drive-through testing facility in Lucerne which may be rolled out to other parts of the country.

Measures to remain

Health Minister Alain Berset warned that extraordinary measures to fight the virus would remain in force for some time, as vulnerable groups still need to be protected even once the number of infections began to fall.

An “extraordinary situation” has been declared by the government, which has issued a recommendation to all citizens to stay at home, especially the sick and the elderly. It has announced a countrywide ban on gatherings of more than five people.

A ban has been imposed on all private and public events and the closing of bars, restaurants, sports and cultural spaces; only businesses providing essential goods remain open. Schools are closed nationwide. The measures are in force until April 19.

Berset said it was "illusory" to imagine that the situation would return to normal from April 20. He urged people to follow the government's advice, keep their distance, stay at home and remain “resilient” and “united”, despite the good Easter weather on the horizon.

“The measures may be adapted at any moment. We have to remain flexible,” he said.

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