Covid-19 immunity testing to begin in some Swiss hospitals

© Keystone / Christian Beutler

Several Swiss hospitals are planning to roll out blood testing to evaluate how many people have already been infected by Covid-19 – including those who may have already built up immunity.

This content was published on March 30, 2020 - 12:27

The Lausanne University Hospital in canton Vaud – the Swiss region with most positive cases thus far – will conduct between 1,000 and 2,000 tests daily starting in about ten days, Swiss public media RTSExternal link writes.

They will firstly be aimed at hospital staff and patients, as well as a sample of the population.

Gilbert Greub of the hospital’s microbiology department told RTS that such testing would begin to offer a broader picture of the crisis, since currently only people with symptoms are currently being tested.

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Analysing a blood sample can reveal antibodies specific to the coronavirus, he said. A sample of 5,000 people, representative of the population, would be enough to draw broader conclusions. More knowledge on the number of people who have built up immunity would be essential for avoiding a second or third wave of infections once confinement measures are eased, he said.

“Once a person has contracted the coronavirus, they are probably immune, and thus protected,” Greub said. “The question is how long this immunity lasts. […] The issue of mutation arises, and we could imagine that a slightly different virus would be able to re-infect such a person.”

Greub said that some 70-80% of the population would need to be immune in order to stave off a new wave.

No such test is currently planned on the national level, though hospitals in Zurich, St Gallen, and Geneva are planning them in their respective regions.

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