Swiss Covid taskforce demands urgent action after ‘insufficient’ measures

Experts at Tuesday's press conference under a graphic showing the rise in cases, hospitalisations and deaths Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Experts have warned that coronavirus cases and deaths are likely to rise further in Switzerland. Calls for urgent action and a second lockdown are becoming louder.

This content was published on December 15, 2020 - 15:27

New infections rose by 4,271 on Tuesday. There were 103 more deaths. The seven-day average of new positive daily cases stands at 4,283; this is 10% more than the previous week. Cantons say they are currently treating 3,073 people in hospital for Covid-19.

“There is a clear significant rise in cases,” Patrick Mathys, head of crisis management at the Federal Office of Public Health, told reporters on Tuesday.

One could even already speak of a third wave, he said. “We need effective measures to reduce the pressure on the health system. We need to take hospitals’ calls for help seriously. Staff are at their limits and can’t offer the services that they need to,” Mathys underlined.

Andreas Stettbacher, head of the centre of competence for military and disaster medicine, said that 78% of intensive care beds were currently being used. Covid patients are currently making up 57% of intensive care patients. “Patients in intensive care need a lot of resources,” Stettbacher said.

Possible lockdown?

Martin Ackermann, head of the Swiss National Covid-19 Science Taskforce,External link had clear words. “The taskforce has concluded that the new measures introduced last Friday are insufficient. From a scientific point of view we should have new measures as quickly as possible – similar to the lockdown in spring. Non-essential shops should be closed,” he said.

Ackermann said the taskforce was concerned that there would be more close contacts and mobility over the holidays. From a scientific point of view “every day counts”.

In response to a question about school closures, Ackermann said it would make sense to keep schools shut for a while after the holidays to ensure that infections incurred during this time did not make their way into schools.

Last Friday, the government ordered restaurants, bars, shops and markets to close at 7pm from December 12 until January 22. Regions less badly hit by the pandemic are still allowed to have locations open until 11pm. 

The government is expected to make an announcement next Friday about possible additional pandemic measures. It has so far tried to avoid a locking down the country as in spring, preferring a middle course between shutting the economy and stemming the pandemic.

Hospitals’ calls for help

The director of the Zurich University Hospital, one of Switzerland's largest public hospitals, said on Tuesday that he could not see how Switzerland could avoid another lockdown due to the rising cases. Gregor Zünd said at a joint Zurich hospitals’ media briefing that he feared a third coronavirus wave mid-January after the skiing holidays. Switzerland has not closed its resorts over the holiday period in a move which has not been appreciated by its neighbours.

Zurich University Hospital was among five university hospitals to send a warning to Interior Minister Alain Berset about overburdened medical institutions due to the influx of Covid-19 patients, it emerged at the weekend.

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