Study highlights life and death impact of Swiss lockdown timing

Intensive care units were on high alert as case numbers soared in Switzerland. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Researchers at the University of Bern reckon that Covid-19 would have killed 6,000 more people in Switzerland if the lockdown had come a week later. But a week earlier, it could have saved 1,600.

This content was published on July 27, 2020 - 14:37

Public life in Switzerland essentially shut down on March 17 after the federal government ordered exceptional measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Prior to that, some cantons like Ticino had already told schools, restaurants and other business to shut their doors.

A team at the University of Bern analysed the effect of the timing of the national lockdown – and how that potentially influenced the number of infections and the strain on hospitals.

The study concluded that another 500 people would have died had the lockdown measures taken effect just a day later – on March 18. Waiting a whole week would have brought the total number of deaths to 8,000 – which is 6,000 more than the nearly 2,000 who have died of Covid-19.

“Early implementation of NPIs [non-pharmaceutical interventions] during SARS-CoV-2 outbreaks can reduce the number of deaths and the necessary duration of strict control measures considerably,” concluded the study.

However, the studyExternal link also revealed that 1,600 people would still be alive today had the lockdown taken effect a week earlier.

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Cases rising again

Since the virus hit Switzerland around 33,500 people have tested positive to the virus and almost 2,000 have died in Switzerland, which has a population of 8.5 million. From its March peak, the number of new cases fell to around a dozen in early June, alongside a drop in hospital cases and deaths.

But since the easing of the lockdown from mid-June, the number of new cases has begun to slowly creep up in different parts of the country. Over the past couple of weeks the average number of new cases has been over 100 per day.

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