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First Swiss canton starts mass coronavirus testing

People queue during Covid-19 mass testing, pictured on Friday, in Zuoz, canton Graubünden Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller

Canton Graubünden has started targeted mass testing of residents as part of its measures to shore up the ski season. This is a Swiss-wide first.

This content was published on December 11, 2020 - 12:10
Keystone-SDA/SWI swissinfo.ch/canton Graubünden/ilj

The first tests started in the south of the mountainous canton on Friday. By the morning some 9,500 people had already registered for the voluntary rapid test, which is free of charge, the cantonal authorities said. The aim is to have tested 20,000 people by Sunday.

“The health department underscores that testing is an important way to detect as many new coronavirus infections as possible,” the canton said in a statementExternal link.

The regions being tested are Maloja (tourism region), Bernina (high number of cases) and Engiadina Bassa/Val Müstair. This is a population of around 35,000, including tourists.

School tested

In addition, 100 young people and 50 teachers at a secondary school in Bonaduz, higher up the canton, have also been tested. This was because of an increase in Covid-19 infections, despite ten days of distance learning.

Tests showed that only one person had been infected. Due to the willingness of people to be tested, the authorities were able to discount the idea that there were many asymptomatic virus carriers at the school.

Pilot project

Graubünden’s pilot project in the south of the canton is taking place December 11-13. Based on how this goes, and if needed, mass testing could be extended to the entire canton in southeast Switzerland, officials have said.

“We want to massively increase testing capacity. We are doing a pilot project for Switzerland,” said cantonal government member Peter Peyer, when announcing the measures on December 4.

The mountainous canton counts St Moritz, Klosters, Arosa and Davos among its resorts. Davos is also the traditional base for the World Economic Forum – although not next year, as it has moved to Singapore over Covid-19 concerns.

Cantonal authorities said the aim of mass testing is to contain the spread of the pandemic, to save the winter season, particularly for strong tourism and ski regions, and allow people to celebrate the holidays together.

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