Intensive care capacity close to overload, warns top Swiss Covid-19 advisor

Martin Ackermann as seen at a press conference in Bern last week Keystone / Anthony Anex

Switzerland’s Covid-19 scientific taskforce chief says hospitals across the Alpine country could be swamped with new coronavirus cases in the next two or three weeks unless the situation improves.

This content was published on October 23, 2020 - 17:26

“We estimate that the capacity limit in intensive care in hospitals will be reached between November 5-18 if nothing changes from the current situation,” Martin Ackermann told reporters in Bern on Friday. “We don't have time to wait any longer.”

The number of new Covid-19 cases has risen sharply in recent days. A total of 6,634 new cases – a record – were reported by the Swiss health authorities on Friday.

They confirmed that the country was now more badly affected than its neighbours: it now has 495 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Only France approaches these levels at 450 cases per 100,000.

On Friday, Ackermann said that hospitalisations were doubling week by week. The same goes for the number of intensive care cases and deaths due to Covid-19. Over the past 14 days 689 people were hospitalised, and 75 died.

Overall, there have now been more than 100,000 cases - 103,653 cases to be precise - since the start of the epidemic and 1,877 deaths.

Contact to a minimum

He urged people to keep their contact with others to a minimum, while the head of the association of cantonal doctors asked people to avoid “delicate situations”, by keeping to social distancing and avoid risky sports and leisure activities.

Testing and tracing capacity is stretched, with officials appealing to those who test positive to personally inform people with whom they have had contact.

Ackermann told reporters that Switzerland’s containment strategy was no longer working due to the high number of cases. For the virus reproduction rate to drop below 1 again, it is necessary to reduce professional and private contacts by half, he said.

Cantons, mostly in western Swiss regions, imposed additional drastic measures on Friday to combat the virus. This follows the Federal Council’s announcement of several national measures on October 18, like the compulsory wearing of masks in public buildings. It is due to set out further measures next October 28.

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