Swiss president urges cantons to prepare hospitals for fifth Covid wave

Swiss President Guy Parmelin warned that the cantons should “prepare hospitals for a major new workload” as hospital admissions may well “increase rapidly”. Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss President Guy Parmelin has warned cantons that they must get hospitals ready for a possible surge in new Covid-19 cases and take steps to ensure the “critical” pandemic situation is kept under control.

This content was published on November 26, 2021

In a four-page letter sent to the cantons on November 24, revealedExternal link in the Swiss press on Friday, Parmelin warned that the cantons should “prepare hospitals for a major new workload” as hospital admissions may well “increase rapidly”.

In the letter he urges the cantons to take swift appropriate local action, including imposing the wider use of masks, reduced work contacts, more regular Covid testing and restrictions on large gatherings.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Switzerland has been rising significantly since mid-October. On Friday, 8,032 new cases were reported, 50% higher than the level early last week. The numbers are doubling every two weeks.

The government on Wednesday described the rising tide of cases in Switzerland as “critical”. But it said it would hold off from new national restrictions to curb coronavirus infections as intensive care units in hospitals could still cope.

The federal government says the federalist system, which gives the cantonal authorities wide-ranging autonomy, is well suited to deal with regional differences.

Health Minister Alain Berset dismissed allegations that the government’s decision not to impose new national measures was a tactical consideration ahead of a nationwide vote on Sunday about the use of Covid certificate for people who have been vaccinated, have recovered from the infection or have tested negative to Covid.

Cantonal reactions

Various cantons reacted on November 25 by announcing a flurry of regional-specific Covid measures, including a mask-wearing rule in indoor public spaces in Geneva, and a third booster jab being made available to all over-16-year-olds in several cantons.

The Conference of Cantonal Health Directors said on Thursday that the cantons were ready to assume their responsibilities. But at the same time it said the Federal Council should take appropriate national measures.

“We need national measures, otherwise the population don’t understand anything,” Vaud Health Minister Rebecca Ruiz told Swiss public television RTS.

“The federal authorities are well aware that hospitals risk being overwhelmed; the cantons do too. We are preparing the system,” said Ruiz. She added that it was not easy to open additional intensive care units as “you need trained staff and today the staff are exhausted and often off work due to illness”.

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