South African Covid variant reported in southern Switzerland

From October 27, the Ticino cantonal government decreed that face masks must be worn outdoors if a minimum distance cannot be maintained. A street scene of Bellinzona, canton Ticino. Keystone / Alessandro Crinari

Health officials in Italian-speaking Switzerland have reported their first case of the South African mutation of the coronavirus. Switzerland has documented at least three cases of the South African variant and ten cases of the variant from Britain, which are apparently more contagious than the original.

This content was published on January 3, 2021 - 18:24

The infected individual has been placed in isolation, the Ticino authorities said on January 1. The person had travelled to Switzerland from South Africa and had tested positive before Christmas.

At least thirteen people in Switzerland have now been detected with the mutant virus, ten with the British version and three with a version detected in South Africa.

On December 20 Switzerland banned flights from the UK and South Africa and imposed an entry ban following reports of the new strain of coronavirus. People who had entered Switzerland from those countries since December 14 were ordered to go into a ten-day quarantine.

The two variants are reportedly spreading across the world. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says there is not enough information to determine whether the variants could undermine vaccines being rolled out.

The Swiss government said on December 30 that the national virus situation remains “worrying with a high level of contamination and the arrival in Switzerland of new strains of the virus”. However, it said it had decided against imposing further restrictions as nationwide measures imposed on December 18 – closure of bars, restaurants, sports and cultural facilities - were “adequate”. The reproduction “R-rate” remains below 1, it said.

The Swiss government’s Covid-19 scientific taskforce has meanwhile urged the government to take additional measures. It has called for an immediate reduction in the “sad” number of cases and for widespread testing of the population.

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