In the last 24 hours in Switzerland, a country with 8.5 million inhabitants, there have been 3,105 new coronavirus positives, and the progression of the infection is causing authorities to worry. As is already the case in many European countries, for a few days the daily cases have been at an all-time high: during the first wave, last spring, the positives had never been more than 1,400 a day. As elsewhere, the data are not comparable, and for example the deaths continue to be relatively few: on Friday there were 5.
But, experts say, if the increase in cases is not slowed, the situation in hospitals could soon worsen. Second the data provided daily by the Swiss federal authorities, on Friday the positive swab rate, ie the percentage of positive swabs out of the total, was 11.6 percent. A fairly high number, and a lot on the rise: just a week earlier, on 9 October, it was 6.5 percent.
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On Thursday in Bern there was a crisis summit between the government and the cantons on the pandemic, the explicit aim of which was to avoid a new lockdown. During the press conference after the summit, Alain Berset, who is one of the seven members of the Swiss Federal Council and heads the health department, said that “for the past few days we have been facing a new dynamic, which is very negative and very strong. For about a week now, the situation in Switzerland has been deteriorating more rapidly than elsewhere “and that” these figures were not expected as early as mid-October, but later “. Berset also said hospital admissions are “on the rise”, but that the situation is under control.
Hospital doctors, heard by the Swiss media, tend to be more concerned: how he wrote ReutersJerome Pugin, head of the intensive care unit at the University Hospital of Geneva (HUG), told Swiss public television on Thursday evening: «We must have the courage to use the term ‘second wave’. There is a lot of talk about positive cases, but what we see is that hospitalizations are doubling, tripling and quadrupling here at the HUG, and patients are starting to return to intensive care. ” Rudolf Hauri, who is the president of the cantonal doctors’ association, told the newspaper Daily indicator: “I fear we will see a sharp increase in hospitalizations in the next two weeks.”
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Despite the concern, after the crisis summit on Thursday, the federal government decided not to take any additional measures: the authorities have only invited citizens to maintain hygiene and distancing measures. After the first wave, in fact, practically all anti-contagion measures in Switzerland were removed from June. One of the latest, the ban on organizing events over 1,000 participants, it was eliminated on October 1st, albeit with some exceptions and with prior approval by the cantons.
Currently, the federal government has made it mandatory to use masks only on public transport: all other measures depend on the individual cantons, which for a long time after the first wave were reluctant to enact strict regulations: until a few days ago, the mask it was mandatory in closed places such as shops and other enclosed spaces in only about half of the 26 cantons. Things are changing with the very worrying increase in infections, even if the situation is still very varied.
The canton of Basel-Stadt, for example, provided for the obligation to wear a mask only in shops and shopping centers, but now it has also extended it to all other indoor places, such as restaurants, cultural institutions and places of worship. In Zurich, the obligation to use the mask in bars and restaurants where not all the seats are seated began on October 15. In Geneva, the use of the mask has been extended to all closed places, and no more than 15 people can participate in public events. In the canton of Ticino, from Monday 19 October it will be mandatory wear the mask in high school, unless a distance of at least one and a half meters is guaranteed.
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On Friday, the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Health, after an extraordinary meeting, asked the federal government to issue common and valid rules for the whole country on the use of masks, distancing and remote working. Even if the cantons decide on the measures to be taken, the federal government can still order measures at the federal level. Virginie Masserey, head of infectious disease control at the Federal Office of Public Health, said the government will act in the coming days.
A few days ago, Berset said there is a possibility that localized lockdowns will occur in the event of a worsening of the situation. However, this decision is also up to the individual cantons.
Also on Friday, the federal government made a deal with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to purchase 5.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine. The contract is based on the agreement between the European Commission and AstraZeneca for the supply of 400 million doses and is through the Swedish government: even if Switzerland is not part of the EU, Sweden will order excess doses and resell them. without profit. In August, the government struck a deal with US biotech company Moderna to sell 4.5 million doses of another type of vaccine.