New Covid variants account for 70% of new infections in Switzerland

They are in favour of mass testing in high-risk areas such as old-age homes or schools Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Despite a stagnation in the number of new infections, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has called for restraint and more testing.  

This content was published on March 2, 2021 - 15:59

"The situation is good, but developments remain uncertain," said Virginie Masserey, head of the FOPH's Infectious Diseases Section at a press briefing on Tuesday. The number of new cases has been stagnant for about two weeks in all regions of Switzerland at 160 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 

The number of hospitalisations is continuing to fall but is also showing signs of plateauing. Covid-related deaths are falling steadily and there is no longer any evidence of excess mortality among the over-65s. 

The number of people with antibodies has risen sharply compared with the first wave, and in some cantons it is as high as 20-25%, said Milo Puhan of the University of Zurich, referring to the Corona Immunitas programme, which analyses immunity in the Swiss population. This is evidence that the second wave has hit harder. Another interesting finding, particularly from the point of view of fighting the virus, is that antibodies can still be detected in patients six months after infection. 

Testing a priority 

"Despite this comforting news, we must not forget that the pandemic is not over and that the situation is still very fragile and uncertain," warned Anne Lévy, director of the FOPH. The cases of new Covid variants continues to increase and now account for 68% of all new infections.  

According to Masserey, this rise of new variants is the real unknown, and in other countries the stagnation phase was a prelude to further increases. She added that it is therefore particularly important for the population to comply with all protective measures, especially in view of the partial relaxation of restrictions since March 1. 

The experts stressed the need to continue to test for the coronavirus, carry out adequate tracing to break the chains of contagion and vaccinate. They were in favour of mass testing in high-risk areas such as old-age homes or schools. The use of the SwissCovid app, which is used by almost two million people every day, also remains essential, they added.  

Rapid saliva tests, which would increase the testing rate, are currently under consideration but are not yet authorised. Their use would also require adaptation of legislation. 

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