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Next weeks will be difficult with Omicron, says health minister

Rebecca Ruiz and Alain Berset walking in Bern
Rebecca Ruiz (left) and Alain Berset (right) both warned that hospitals could soon be pushed to their limits by Omicron. © Keystone / Anthony Anex

Even if Omicron is less virulent than previous Covid-19 variants, its infectiousness will likely bring more hospital admissions and intensive care patients in coming weeks, Swiss health minister Alain Berset said on Friday.

Switzerland should prepare for this with good coordination between the hospitals, cantons and the federal government, he told journalists in Bern. He was speaking alongside Rebecca Ruiz, deputy head of the Conference of Cantonal Health Directors and health minister for the western canton of Vaud.

“Omicron has the potential to push the hospital system to its limits, especially if there is a lack of staff,” warned Ruiz. But she said the cantons were already preparing with extra beds.

Berset said Omicron was also pushing the country’s testing system to its limits, and that “priorities must now be set”. He suggested that priority should be given to hospitals, elderly care homes and symptomatic people, but that the issue needed further analysis.

The minister also urged citizens to avoid events and risky situations, and to isolate if they develop symptoms. He said the government was planning a new campaign to get people “boosted”. Currently in Switzerland, almost 68% of the population is double-jabbed and 32% have had a third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

Berset said that in view of the current situation, it was unlikely the current anti-coronavirus restrictions would be lifted for the moment.

Switzerland is currently undergoing a fifth wave of the pandemic, with the number of new daily coronavirus infections reaching unprecedented highs: 29,887 new cases were reported on January 13 for the previous 24-hour period. Hospital admissions are up slightly but officials fear an increase. Swiss health experts say they expect the number of Covid infections to peak within the next 1-3 weeks.


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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR