Switzerland beefs up coronavirus testing capacity 

The Swiss government is stepping up measures to try and stop the virus spreading from Italy. Keystone

Ten laboratories in Switzerland can now carry out coronavirus tests, Health Minister Alain Berset announced on Wednesday. Prior to Monday they were all done by one laboratory in Geneva.  

This content was published on February 26, 2020 - 18:19

The ten laboratories can together perform 1,000 tests per day, he told a press conference, noting that capacity has been almost tripled since last week.  

Berset said Tuesday’s confirmation of a first coronavirus case in Switzerland did not change the measures put in place on Monday.  

The coronavirus patient, an elderly man from the southern canton of Ticino, is in isolation in a clinic in Lugano and is reported to be doing well. 

On Monday, the government decided to beef up measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus from neighbouring Italy, including tests for people with flu-like symptoms and stepping up information and advisory services.   

Berset said a campaign of information for travellers and commuters at borders and airports would start on Thursday, with flyers and posters. A hygiene campaign will be launched the same day and the existing telephone hotline strengthened. 

The telephone hotline has been inundated with calls, according to operator Medgate. Most calls have been about travel  to Asia and Italy, and what hygiene steps to protect against infection.

Swiss in Tenerife quarantine

Meanwhile, the foreign ministry says several Swiss citizens have been quarantined in a hotel in Tenerife after some Italian guests there tested positive for coronavirus. The ministry says the Swiss, whose exact number is not clear, are well, and that it is in contact with them and the relevant Spanish authorities.

And the Lufthansa airline group, which includes Swiss International Airlines, has suspended all passenger flights to mainland China until the end of March as a result of the virus outbreak, and reduced flights to Hong Kong. Swiss will now fly to Hing Kong only five times a week instead of every day, and will use smaller planes.

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