mcloudyn.png
Thursday October 29th, 2020 11:56PM

Swiss hospital chief: Europe at 'turning point' vs. COVID

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

GENEVA (AP) — As coronavirus sweeps across Europe, the head of the biggest hospital in Switzerland, a rich country with one of the world's best healthcare systems, is echoing a growing call to the public: Buckle down.

Bertrand Levrat, CEO of Geneva University Hospitals, which counts 12,000 personnel, says Europe overall faces a “turning point” at a time when Switzerland too is fighting a second wave of coronavirus cases that grew in large part out of a summertime lull in which people let down their guard about the highly infectious pandemic.

“The virus doesn’t spread alone — we are the ones who spread it. It’s a line that we don’t repeat enough,” Levrat said from his office overlooking Geneva, a surgical mask tucked into his jacket pocket. “Today, the stakes center on how much people are going to follow health measures that allow most people, and economies, and life in general, to get through this.”

“If we don’t get a handle on this, we run the risk of getting into a situation that’s harder to control,” he said. “We are really at a turning point — things can go both ways. Health services need to look for ways to keep up contact tracing (and) to succeed in getting a grasp on the chains of transmission.”

Swiss authorities, like their counterparts across Europe, are facing the increasingly tricky dilemma of calibrating a response that meets the urgent health care requirements at a time of growing public fatigue about COVID-19 restrictions and when doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are already beleaguered and dreading a new wave that would strain their work and personal lives.

The Swiss benefit from a relatively rich population in a less densely populated country. Switzerland, at more than 8.6 million people, has a smaller population than the metropolitan areas of Paris and London, for example. The country, along with Germany, has generally been seen as coping better than some of its European neighbors in battling the pandemic.

But that may be changing. The Alpine nation has confirmed more than 71,000 cases and over 1,800 deaths from coronavirus, and new cases are rolling at more than 1,000 per day recently — hitting a record 3,105 on Friday. Its infection rates are now among the highest in Europe. While Switzerland isn't in the European Union, its fortunes and fate are closely tied to the bloc, and the virus knows no borders.

Population centers in Zurich, Lausanne and its Vaud region, the Italian-speaking Ticino region and Geneva have been hardest hit. Now, the less dense canton Schwyz — at the heart of the birthplace of the Swiss confederation — is reportedly facing the country’s biggest spike in cases.

The Geneva University Hospitals have hired hundreds of new staffers in recent months. On Thursday, they announced stepped-up recruitment, testing and lab services in response to the second wave.

“I think we are quite well prepared, even though it was a huge challenge to every one of us, and a huge stress on the system,” Levrat said, but acknowledged that "teams that have been quite exhausted by the first wave.”

During the spring, the hospital had a peak of 550 patients at the same time — all COVID patients. Other medical services were farmed out to private clinics. Today, hospitalizations are at more than 70, but that marks a four-fold increase from just a month ago, and Levrat expects it to hit 80 within the next two weeks. Beyond that, he's not making any predictions.

Switzerland has not enacted draconian measures seen in countries like neighboring France, but did require the closure of all businesses except “essential” ones like pharmacies, supermarkets and gas stations during the first wave. Those orders have been lifted, but face masks are still required on public transport and working from home is recommended where possible.

So far, new measures have been piecemeal. The Swiss army halted weekend leave for some 10,000 recruits through the end of October, hoping to prevent them from catching it at home. Geneva this week limited public gatherings to 100 people maximum, and organizers of any gathering of over 15 must take contact details of attendees.

Switzerland's federal system, like neighboring Germany and the United States, gives leeway to its regions — known as cantons — to set health policy. Geneva was among the first to limit gatherings in public to no more than five people during the deadlier first phase.

The Swiss response mostly has been to trust the public to do the right thing and keep to common sense — but there have been some visible lapses.

Last month, a world-renowned hotel management school in Lausanne forced 2,500 students into temporary quarantine after a spike in cases linked to off-campus partying. Like elsewhere, young adults have been at the center of the latest wave, but they less often suffer severe or life-threatening cases that are more common in the elderly or among people with previous medical conditions.

But as the case counts rise, federal officials are scrambling — and considering new restrictions. The leaders of Switzerland’s two parliamentary chambers met with the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who reportedly reassured them that Switzerland can manage the rising in cases.

On Thursday, Health Minister Alain Berset said: “There’s no surprise package of new measures that’s on the way.”

“The principal measure depends on individual behavior, with distancing and hygiene -- it’s the only known valid measure, really, to avoid infections,” he told reporters in the capital, Bern. “We see that it’s not easy in the midst of this rise we are experiencing.”

But Berset also said health authorities were meeting again Friday to consider new steps.

“We can’t take measures too late,” he said.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
UK says EU trade talks 'over' after EU says they'll continue
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman says talks on a trade deal with the European Union are effectively “over,” despite the EU’s insistence they will continue next week
9:12AM ( 10 minutes ago )
UK says Instagram to crack down on hidden influencer ads
British regulators said Friday that Instagram will clamp down on “hidden advertising” by social media influencers
9:08AM ( 13 minutes ago )
Thai PM refuses to resign, police crack down on protesters
Thailand’s prime minister is rejecting calls for his resignation, while riot police crack down on thousands of student-led protesters rallying in the capital in defiance of a strict state of emergency
9:01AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: US testing 3 drugs to tamp down coronavirus
U.S. government officials are launching a new study testing three drugs to tamp down an overactive response by the immune system that can cause severe illness or death in people with COVID-19
8:01AM ( 1 hour ago )
China rapidly expands use of experimental COVID-19 vaccines
China is rapidly increasing the number of people receiving its experimental coronavirus vaccines, with a city offering one to the general public and a biotech company providing another free to students going abroad
6:50AM ( 2 hours ago )
The Latest: Curfew comes into force in French cities
French restaurants, cinemas and theaters are trying to figure out how to survive a new curfew aimed at stemming the flow of record new virus infections
6:43AM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Health
Global shares mixed amid virus spike, US aid concerns
Global shares are mixed as investors weigh concerns about a US economic stimulus package, plus flaring outbreaks of coronavirus
8:07AM ( 1 hour ago )
EU leader: We want trade deal with UK but not at any price
Refusing to bow to U_K_ insistence that the European Union must make “fundamental” changes, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen says the EU still wants a Brexit trade deal “but not at any price.”
7:52AM ( 1 hour ago )
UK leader: EU must make 'fundamental' change in Brexit talks
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. must prepare for a no-deal break with the European Union unless there is a “fundamental” change of position from the bloc
7:39AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP Business
Power still out to thousands in California to prevent fires
Thousands of people in Northern California remain without power after a utility cut off service to prevent powerful winds from damaging equipment and sparking wildfires amid a fall heat wave
12:34AM ( 8 hours ago )
The Latest: Campaign says Trump defeated town hall moderator
A spokesperson for President Donald Trump’s campaign is declaring that the president “defeated” town hall moderator, Savannah Guthrie, and derided the NBC “Today” host as a “surrogate” for Democrat Joe Biden’s campaign
10:10PM ( 11 hours ago )
DOJ charges Texas billionaire in $2 billion tax fraud scheme
Federal prosecutors have charged Texas billionaire Robert Brockman in a $2 billion tax fraud scheme that they say is the largest such case against an American
6:46PM ( 14 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
China fires 2 health officials following new virus outbreak
A hospital president and the director of the health commission in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao have been fired after China’s latest coronavirus outbreak
12:14AM ( 1 day ago )
As virus surges anew, Milan hospitals under pressure again
Coronavirus infections are surging again in the region of northern Italy where the pandemic first took hold in Europe, renewing pressure on hospitals and health care workers
5:17PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Melania Trump says Barron no longer has COVID-19
First lady Melania Trump says Barron Trump tested positive at one point for the coronavirus but has subsequently tested negative
4:39PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Business - Health Care
UK says EU trade talks 'over' after EU says they'll continue
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman says talks on a trade deal with the European Union are effectively “over,” despite the EU’s insistence they will continue next week
9:12AM ( 10 minutes ago )
UK says Instagram to crack down on hidden influencer ads
British regulators said Friday that Instagram will clamp down on “hidden advertising” by social media influencers
9:08AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Thai PM refuses to resign, police crack down on protesters
Thailand’s prime minister is rejecting calls for his resignation, while riot police crack down on thousands of student-led protesters rallying in the capital in defiance of a strict state of emergency
9:01AM ( 21 minutes ago )
WHO: Study finds 4 drugs have little to no effect on COVID
The U.N. health agency says the world’s largest randomized trial of COVID-19 treatments found “conclusive evidence” that remdesivir, a drug used to treat U.S. President Donald Trump when he fell ill, has little or no effect on severe cases
8:45AM ( 37 minutes ago )
UK, EU each demand the other give way to strike trade deal
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the U.K. must prepare for a no-deal break with the European Union unless there is a “fundamental” change of position from the bloc
8:22AM ( 1 hour ago )