Switzerland shifts focus to tracking Indian Covid-19 variant

Switzerland sequences around 2,000 postive tests per week to detect variants. Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

Swiss laboratories are no longer trying to detect the British mutation of Covid-19 but are developing new tests to pinpoint a newer Indian variant in the country.

This content was published on May 7, 2021 - 11:04

The British variant is now the most widespread strain of the virus in Switzerland, making it pointless to continue tracking its progress in detail, a health ministry official told the Neue Zürcher Zeitung in Friday.

Fosca Gattoni, head of coronavirus testing at the Federal Office of Public Health, told the newspaper that laboratory sequencing will now switch its focus to the newer Indian variant.

“Switzerland takes this issue very seriously. We are one of the leaders at sequencing positive test results to identify new mutations. In December we identified the British variant very quickly. We are really very good at this,” she said.

Gattoni said that 2,000 positive tests are sequenced a week in Switzerland, which is enough to “get a meaningful overall picture.” She added that there is no pressing need for Switzerland to increase its sequencing rate to catch up with faster countries, such as Denmark and Britain. Gattoni said that Switzerland best record in the world at sequencing the virus.

“Of course, you can always do more. There are always countries that are even faster than us. But we manage to sequence 10% of the positive samples. This is a high percentage by international comparison.”

The Indian variant was first detected in Switzerland last month, with around a dozen cases confirmed so far. India was added to Switzerland’s list of high risk travel countries on April 26, meaning that people arriving from India must immediately go into quarantine.

In the meantime, an aircraft carrying Swiss medical supplies to India touched down in New Delhi on Friday morning.

Switzerland has joined international efforts to help relieve the impact of a devastating second wave of the pandemic in India. The shipment included 600 oxygen concentrators and 50 respirators for intensive care.

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