Swiss nursing home hit by British Covid-19 variant outbreak

A lady sits in a vaccination centre in northeastern Switzerland on Wednesday Keystone / Alexandra Wey

Three-quarters of residents of a nursing home in southern Switzerland and half its workers have been infected with the coronavirus variant first found in Britain.

This content was published on January 14, 2021 - 17:31

Italian-speaking canton Ticino said a series of infections occurred in rapid succession as well as a re-infection. This prompted health officials to conduct genetic sequencing, which confirmed the British variant was circulating.

“This sweep test had confirmed a rapid spread of the outbreak, with around half the staff and three-quarters of the guests positive, despite the protective measures put in place,” the cantonal government said in a statement.

The home for the elderly, in the municipality of Mendrisio, has meanwhile been closed for visits.

Single British tourist

Switzerland has reported 120 of cases of the highly infectious British variant, including in the mountain resort of Wengen. There, a single British tourist is thought to have brought the mutated virus into the region, resulting in the cancellation of World Cup ski races this weekend.

The Ticino government did not release the number of people linked to the nursing home outbreak or say whether there had been any fatalities or hospitalisations.

“It is good to remember that the British strain of the virus is not more serious, but more contagious,” the canton said. “It therefore requires more intense contact tracking to avoid its spread as much as possible.”

On Wednesday Switzerland announced stricter measures including store closures in a bid to reduce contacts amid fears that the British and other variants could rapidly spread and overwhelm hospital and healthcare infrastructure.

Almost 8,000 people have died from Covid-19 in Switzerland, which has a population of 8.6 million.

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