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Allowing large gatherings in Switzerland ‘poses a significant risk’

Faced with the possibility that Swiss authorities will authorise gatherings of over 1,000 people from October 1st, health officials say the measure may spark the second wave of Covid-19 infections.

Allowing large gatherings in Switzerland ‘poses a significant risk’
Crowds of 1,000 people might be allowed from October 1st. Photo by AFP

The government announced last week that over 1,000 people will be allowed to get together from October 1st. The decision was made based on the “needs of society and the economic interests of sports clubs and cultural venues”. 

The current limit is 300.

Authorities did say that “strict protective measures will apply and the events will have to be authorised by the cantons, taking into account the local epidemiological situation and their contact tracing capacity”.

However, some health officials are sounding the alarm about the risks involved in allowing such a large number of people to congregate in one place while the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet under control.

“We are seeing a slow but inexorable increase in infections and outbreaks in Switzerland,” Philippe Eggimann, president of the Medical Society of French-Speaking Switzerland said in an interview with La Liberté newspaper. 

“It is not reasonable to open the way for more transmission opportunities,” he added.

READ MORE: 'We're on a dangerous slope': Swiss officials fear more Covid-19 cases as seasons change 

According to Eggimann, lifting the restriction on large assemblies would make it harder to trace contacts in the event of coronavirus infections, therefore “encouraging a second wave”.

He also noted that the re-opening of schools and the return from vacation will increase social interactions, and with it, the risk of exposure to the virus.

“In this context, allowing crowds of 1,000 people is a significant risk. It would have been safer to watch how things develop and only then make decisions,” he noted.

The warning comes as the number of Covid-19 infections in Switzerland became the highest since the worst of the pandemic in April.

The number of daily cases so far in August has exceeded 200 a day, rising nearly twofold from previous weeks.

That is a substantial surge from the month of June, when the count for daily cases was in the low two-digits. 

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COVID-19

Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death. 

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