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New Covid surge could infect over one million Swiss this summer

Tanja Stadler, the former government Covid-19 taskforce head, said she still wears a mask on public transport and in health facilities. © Keystone/ Valentin Flauraud

Around 15% of the Swiss population could get infected this summer with new Omicron subvariants, warns the former head of the government’s Covid-19 taskforce.

This content was published on June 20, 2022 - 10:06
Blick.ch/Keystone-SDA/sb

Tanja Stadler believes the risk of intensive care units becoming overloaded by this new wave is “low”, but more hospitalisations and Long Covid cases can be expected.

“We assume that around 15% of the population [8.6 million] – over one million people – will be infected,” she toldExternal link Blick.ch newspaper on Monday. Most of those affected will not have been tested, she added.

European countries are experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of the highly infectious Omicron strain.

After three months of falling infections, new coronavirus infections have started rising again in Switzerland. The Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reported 16,610 new cases on June 14 for the previous seven-day period. The seven-day daily average for new infections stood at 2,124, up 45% on the previous week. 

Many cases are going undetected, according to Stadler. Based on recent wastewater analyses in Switzerland, the number of cases is actually higher than last winter, she told Blick.ch.

“There are probably over 80,000 new infections a week,” she calculates, adding that the current estimate is much higher than comparable numbers for the past two summers.

Fewer serious cases

The two new Omicron sublineages, BA.4 and BA.5, were added to the World Health Organization (WHO)'s monitoring list in March and have also been designated as variants of concern by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

BA.4 and BA.5 do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other forms of Omicron. But an increase in case numbers from higher transmission rates risks leading to an increase in hospitalisations and deaths, say experts.

Despite the rising numbers, there are few serious cases in Swiss hospitals, said Stadler.

According to the most recent FOPH data, 371 people were in hospital with Covid in Switzerland (+16% compared with the previous week) and 18 were in intensive care (-14%) over the past seven days.

“The most recent statistics show that 97% of the adult population in Switzerland have antibodies against Covid-19 thanks to vaccines and infections,” she said.

Switzerland should not fear intensive care units getting overloaded, said Stadler. But “with an increasing number of infections, more vulnerable people will end up in hospital and the number of long Covid cases will also increase”, she said. “You have to be aware that even a triple vaccination provides only limited protection against infection.”

All pandemic restrictions have been lifted in Switzerland since April 1.

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