Is the partial lockdown enough for Switzerland or does it need more stringent measures? The Federal Council will decide on Wednesday. And that’s what the latest available data says.
It is not possible to predict the development of the epidemiological situation in Switzerland: this has been reported by epidemiologist Antoine Flahault for almost two weeks via his Twitter account. The Director of the Institute of Global Health at the University of Geneva and his team have been publishing a brief analysis of developments in various countries every day since the outbreak of the pandemic. This has not been possible for Switzerland since Christmas – according to Flahault, the flow of data over the holidays was too irregular.
2/21. IMPORTANT NOTE: Since @ECDC_EU
has given up in its daily data reporting since Dec 15, we cannot any longer provide previsions from their database. We rely on JHU.
Due to irregular reporting during Christmas break, we cannot deliver any reliable previsions for Switzerland.
– Kristen (@ KristenN_06) January 3, 2021
The Federal Council is also facing this problem when it decides on Wednesday how to proceed with the corona measures. Extend, tighten or lift the partial lockdown imposed since December 22nd? The currently available corona data speak at least in favor of an extension of the measures.
Development of infections
Around 3300 cases are currently detected with corona tests per day (average of the last seven days). That is much less than at the height of the second wave at the beginning of November (around 7,800 cases per day) and also less than in mid-December, when the number of cases rose again (around 4,200 cases per day).
However, it is not certain whether the decline has actually occurred since mid-December. Because there was significantly less testing over the holidays. In the week before Christmas, around 430 tests per day were carried out on 100,000 residents – a high figure even in an international comparison. In the old week of the year there were only half as many. The proportion of positive tests rose from 12 to 17 percent over the holidays, which suggests an increase in the number of unreported cases.
The aim of the partial lockdown is to significantly reduce the number of new infections every day. Two weeks after the partial lockdown came into effect, it is not yet possible to say whether it will be sufficient for this.
Development of hospital admissions
A good 400 corona patients are currently in the intensive care units of Swiss hospitals. The numbers differ depending on the data source, and the reports from the hospitals in the past few weeks have not always been equally reliable. Compared to the peak of the second wave (in the intensive care units in mid-November) that would be a decrease of about 100 patients.
However, this does not say anything about the effectiveness of the partial lockdown. It takes an average of 12 days from infection with Corona to admission to the intensive care unit. As long as the partial lockdown is in effect.
After all: Swiss hospitals currently have free capacity. The intensive care units are 71 or 74 percent full, depending on the source. But only because the number of non-corona patients was reduced by postponing planned interventions.
Evolution of deaths
Almost 70 people currently die every day in Switzerland due to Corona (average of the last seven days according to the cantons). At the height of the second wave it was just under 100 (third week of November). The corona measures, which were gradually tightened from November, have presumably led to a reduction.
The effect of the partial lockdown cannot yet be measured in terms of deaths either. It takes an average of 17 days from infection with corona to death. In an international comparison, the number of deaths is also still very high.
And the England mutation?
The sharp rise in the number of cases in Great Britain is currently also worrying epidemiologists in Switzerland. In the UK, a more contagious variant of the coronavirus is causing the increase. In Switzerland, this variant has been detected several times in the last two weeks, most recently for the first time in a group of people who did not come from Great Britain.
Last week, Switzerland had to quickly reduce the number of cases, also with a view to the possible spread of the new variant. The goal must be to keep the reproductive number of the virus (R value) below 0.8 over a longer period of time. The R value shows how quickly the virus is spreading. With an R value of 0.8, the number of new infections is halved every two weeks.
The R-value can only be estimated with a delay of around ten days. The latest is available for December 25th: it should have been 0.89 at the time. Due to the low test numbers over the holidays, these estimates are currently even more uncertain than usual. Nevertheless, various epidemiologists are already advocating tightening the partial lockdown as quickly as possible.