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Omicron variant accounts for majority of Covid-19 infections in Switzerland

Nurse in intensive care
Omicron variant now represents over 50% of new Covid-19 cases Keystone / Laurent Gillieron

Representing 55% of cases, the Omicron variant now accounts for the majority of Covid-19 infections in Switzerland. 

Canton Ticino, that borders Italy, is particularly affected, but the variant is also spreading rapidly to other cantons, public health officials announced on Tuesday.

Omicron is spreading faster than the Delta variant with cases doubling every three to five days. Because of its high contagiousness, the new variant should soon account for almost all cases, health officials said in a press conference. 

The course of the infection, however, appears to be milder, but this may be due to some immunisation from vaccination, they added. 

“In terms of virulence, the Omicron variant seems less strong than Delta but more so than Alpha, the first Covid-19 variant that Switzerland had to deal with,” said Tanja Stadler, chair of the Swiss government’s scientific task force.

Infections in Switzerland continue at a high or very high level, with almost 13,000 new cases per day. The incidence is one of the highest in Europe.

The age group of 20–29-year-olds are the most affected. Currently, 336 Covid-19 patients are in intensive care, occupying 40% of available beds.

Many unknowns

Some hospitals have reached their limit but the overall workload in hospitals is still manageable, authorities say. However, some cantons are struggling to track down all contact cases because of the sheer numbers.

The first effects of the family gatherings during the festive season will not be seen until the beginning of 2022, according to Stadler. Health experts are expecting a rapid increase in infections in the first weeks of January, of up to 20,000 people a day.

Vaccination does not completely protect against contagion, said Stadler, who also urged the population to comply with health measures. In Switzerland, there are currently around 40 cases of people infected with Omicron who have received a booster dose and have had to be hospitalised. 

According to current regulations, recovered and double-vaccinated people do not need to quarantine if they have been in contact with a person who tested positive. Experts are considering measures such as extending quarantines for potential carriers and quarantine rules for vaccinated people to contain the pandemic.

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