Swiss health official warns Covid-19 outbreaks inevitable

Kuster (centre) took over in April as head of the Federal Health Office's unit of communicable diseases. Keystone/Ennio Leanza

Switzerland risks new outbreaks of coronavirus cases similar to those in neighboring Germany, a senior health official has warned.

This content was published on June 24, 2020 - 12:06

Stefan Kuster who heads the unit of communicable diseases at the Federal Health Office, said it was illusory to believe that Switzerland “can prevent clusters” of the disease. His remarks were published on Wednesday’s newspapers from the Tamedia publishing group.

Kuster compared the current situation in Switzerland with a smouldering fire that triggers fresh flare-ups that need to be put out.

Kuster said the solid economic situation of Switzerland was probably a factor which helped prevent the worst. He was referring to a major case of Covid-19 contagions at a meat factory in northern Germany where hygiene and living conditions for many employees were critical.

The health expert refused to rule out a new spike of coronavirus infections in the next few months, noting that scientists still don’t know enough about the virus to combat it successfully.

He also said mandatory hygiene masks on public transport were “a valid possible option” if the population was not willing to respect official recommendations. He said it was up to cantonal authorities to act if necessary.

The Swiss government has stopped short of making the wearing of protective face coverings mandatory but recommended people do so in cases where passengers can’t keep a minimum distance from others.

There are currently about 200 Covid-19 patients in isolation in Switzerland and more than 600 in quarantine. The daily rate of infections has dropped to between about ten and 35 cases in the past few weeks despite a staggered easing of restrictions on public life.

A new online survey found that nearly 80% of 10,519 respondents are in favour of masks in public transport.

The poll was published by the Tamedia group on Wednesday, but the results are not representative according to the newspapers.

Previous polls by other organisations did not find a clear majority in favour of mandatory masks in trains and buses.

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