Corona virus: federal government does not leave a convincing impression – Switzerland: standard


The corona virus continues to keep Switzerland in suspense. Although the Zurich Triemli Hospital gave the all-clear yesterday for the two suspected cases there – in Basel there is still uncertainty about a suspected case at the University Hospital Basel. Uncertainty remains high due to the increasing number of victims in China and new confirmed diseases, including in Germany.

After extensive hesitation, the federal authorities went on the offensive yesterday. Firstly, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (EDA) increased its efforts to enable the four remaining Swiss citizens to travel home in the quarantine city of Wuhan. This is reportedly trying EDA – together with France and Germany – to persuade China to allow evacuation. The Department of Foreign Affairs only confirms that talks with partner countries and with China are ongoing. “Modalities for a possible departure are also discussed,” said a spokesman.

At the same time, the Federal Office for health (BAG) informed about the corona virus for the first time yesterday at a press conference. However, it showed just how difficult this disease is for the authorities. News about the corona virus is short-lived these days, said Daniel Koch, head of the communicable diseases department at the BAG, shortly before noon in Bern. Infection numbers from China may already be out of date within 20 minutes.

Hardly said, already out of date

In fact, the authorities were overtaken by the topicality during the media conference. The “good news” from Koch’s deputy Patrick Mathys, according to which contagions are currently only possible in China, quickly proved to be wrong. In Germany and Japan, the authorities and media had already informed of one case in which the infection occurred outside of China.

In Bavaria, an employee of a car supplier became infected who had contact with a Chinese training manager who had been infected in China in the company in Germany. The second case, reported by the Japanese health minister, concerns a bus driver who drove Chinese tourists from Wuhan around Japan.

The fact that the BAG found out about these cases via the media raises questions about the state of information of the federal authority. Basically, the BAG has to get such information, said Patrick Mathys from the BAG. “It is a fault of our own.” One problem for the BAG is that Switzerland has no access to the EU early warning system. The BAG does have some “sources” that it can tap into. Otherwise, the Federal Office is dependent on the news channels.

The BAG hopes that the EU will include Switzerland in the European early warning system in the next few days. Switzerland submitted the corresponding application. The EU last granted Switzerland access to its information channels in the event of the 2014 and 2015 Ebola outbreaks. As long as Switzerland does not sign the framework agreement, the health agreement remains blocked.

BAG relativizes corona risk

The BAG made every effort to present the situation in Switzerland as relaxed. The risk of infection in contact with visitors from China is very low, said Daniel Koch. Close contact is required for infection. You have to get closer to an infected person than a meter. Nevertheless, infections could sooner or later occur in Switzerland. “The preparations are in full swing.” If people fall ill in Switzerland, they are treated in isolation with hospitals. For patients with a mild course of the disease, isolated treatment at home would also be conceivable, said Koch.

The reference laboratory in Geneva has also ramped up its capacities. It is now able to test samples for the corona virus within three hours. The BAG did not want to say how many suspected cases have been tested in Geneva so far.

It is currently being checked whether an emergency supply of protective masks that will soon reach the expiry date can still be used. Such masks are currently in short supply worldwide. According to Koch, most masks are made in Asia, where they are more urgently needed.

The army is mobilized in an emergency

Switzerland has decided not to screen incoming flight passengers for the time being. Such a measure would only make sense if the major flight hubs in Europe also introduced it, said Koch. As long as no such controls take place in Frankfurt, sick passengers could continue to travel to Switzerland by train without being checked accordingly.

In the event that such a screening is introduced at the airports in Switzerland, the medical personnel of the Swiss Army could make equipment and personnel available. For this purpose, the knowledge of the medical personnel on the management of suspected cases should be refreshed, as the DDPS announced.

Created: 1/28/2020, 8:56 PM

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