Surge in Covid cases causes surprise in Switzerland

The director of Switzerland’s health office worries about older people who have turned down vaccination. Keystone / Peter Schneider

The uptick in Covid-19 cases since Switzerland relaxed its public health rules is now a source of concern. The rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant is casting a cloud over the resumption of normal life across Europe.

This content was published on July 18, 2021 - 12:28

Anne Lévy, director of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), says she is surprised by the rebound in cases in Switzerland.

“We knew they would rise after the reopenings. But we didn't expect them to increase so much and so fast," she told the German-language Swiss weekly, NZZ am Sonntag, in an interview.

She blames the increase in infections on the Swiss population becoming less cautious as more people get vaccinated, and on the lifting of most restrictive measures to counter the spread of the virus.

Dangerous young people

On Friday, the FOPH recorded 619 new coronavirus infections in Switzerland and Liechtenstein in 24 hours. That is almost double the figure than what was documented the previous week (323). The Delta variant accounts for a third of cases.

The trendline in Switzerland mirrors that of the European Union  where the spread of the more infectious Delta variant has led to a 64.3% increase in Covid-19 cases over the past week.

New cases  in Switzerland—and likewise in Europe—are concentrated among young people.

The situation could become dangerous, Lévy warns, if the virus spreads to older members of the community who have not been vaccinated as this would lead to a sharp increase in hospitalisations.

Lévy is particularly concerned by the many people over 50 who are not vaccinated. "For them, the possibility of developing a more serious form of the disease is greater than for younger people," she notes.

Two-thirds of those who can be vaccinated in Switzerland are vaccinated, according to the health official. Among those at risk, 85% have received at least one dose. But she believes that this is not enough

 "We must succeed in motivating more people to be vaccinated," stresses Lévy.

Living with Covid-19

It is unlikely that the virus, which has developed many variants, will ever be fully eradicated, according to the health expert. Lévy says people will need to learn with Covid-19 and that protective measures such as wearing masks could become the norm.

“Like in Asian countries,” she notes. “There, it is natural to wear a mask when you have a cold".

The domestic use of Covid-19 health certificates, for example to access restaurants, could be considered if the situation worsens, according to the health expert. "This would be better than further closures," she says.

More than 10,300 people have died in connection with Covid-19 in Switzerland, which has a population of 8.6 million.

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