Epidemiologist: don’t lift Covid measures too quickly

Keystone / Jean-christophe Bott

Leading epidemiologist Marcel Salathé has urged the Swiss government to wait before lifting the remaining pandemic measures. The rapid rise in coronavirus cases is worrying, he said in a newspaper interview.

This content was published on March 13, 2022 - 13:33

“Corona is not over. And I fear that the virus will surprise and keep us busy a few more times,” the professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) told the SonntagsZeitung.

Switzerland removed almost all Covid restrictions on February 17. The two remaining measures – the wearing of hygiene masks in public transport and a five-day isolation period for Covid patients – are to be lifted at the end of March.

Salathé pointed out that current mortality and hospitalisation rates were low due to vaccination and progressive immunity in the population. And the risk of dying from corona was now the same or lower than for normal flu.

But the virus was now spreading so rapidly that deaths and hospital admissions were likely to increase again, he warned. We also do not yet know the long-term consequences of an infection, he said.

“Given the current figures, I would wait before completely abolishing the obligation to wear masks on trains and buses. And masks are such a simple means of protecting oneself that no one is actually bothered by them. I would also keep the isolation requirement until the numbers are really low again,” he said.

Sharp rise

After falling steadily from a peak in late January, the number of new coronavirus cases is again rising sharply in Switzerland: 32,087 new cases were reported on March 11 for the previous 24-hour period (last figures available).

The seven-day average as reported on the same day was 25,340 cases­ – up 44% on the previous week.

On Saturday it was announced that Economics Minister Guy Parmelin had tested positive for the coronavirus, three days after health minister Alain Berset. Swiss President Ignazio Cassis tested positive on February 17.

Next steps

Last week the Swiss government said that the recent hike in cases was to be expected but that there was no cause for alarm, as the situation in hospitals was under control.

For his part, Salathé said that he hoped that the peak of this wave would be reached in the next few weeks and that coronavirus cases would fall again to “really low numbers” in the warmer season.

The expert said that the country should however prepare itself for another wave of the virus in autumn. He also raised the prospect of a fourth vaccination in autumn.

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