Swiss health officials sound alarm over Omicron transmissions

Experts say the new Covid-19 Omicron variant is likely to be dominant in Switzerland within weeks, putting the health system under additional pressure. Keystone/Laurent Gillieron

Health officials have warned of an imminent wave of Covid infections with the contagious Omicron variant in Switzerland over the next few weeks.

This content was published on December 21, 2021 minutes

Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office of Public Health told a news conference on Tuesday that the Omicron variant currently accounts for 10-20% of all new cases, but they were likely to double every 2-3 days.

He said that the rate of new infections had apparently slowed in recent days, but this was “the calm before another possible storm”. He pointed out that “Switzerland still has one of the highest Covid incidence ratesExternal link in Europe”.

Mathys warned that hospitals are likely to face further pressure and risk an overload with Covid patients in February.

Shorter interval

Meanwhile, the government’s advisory commission on vaccinations has given the go-ahead for booster jabs with mRNA vaccines after an interval of four months for people who are fully immunised.

The formal recommendation applies to people aged 16 and over.

“Reducing the interval is particularly important for older people to protect them from severe illness and hospitalisations,” Christoph Berger of the Federal Commission for Vaccinations told the news conference.

The move comes as the Swiss government last Friday decided to impose new curbs and to shorten to four months from six months the period for people who seek a booster jab.

The announcement prompted criticism from some of the country’s 26 cantonal health authorities, saying the government acted without waiting for approval from experts.

Additional members of the militia army have been deployed to help the cantonal authorities roll out the booster campaign, mostly in western Switzerland.

The defence ministry said 120 staff would be available from next week to take over logistical and administrative tasks at hospitals and old people's homes.

The government has allowed the deployment of up to 2,500 army members until the end of March. So far, 90 have been called up for service.

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