In the seven days to 14 August 2020, the reported number of new SARS-CoV-2 infections recorded in Switzerland was 1,402, 35% higher than the 1,037 cases recorded the week before.
The 7-day rolling average number of new cases was 200. The last time it was this high was 25 April 2020.
Over the weeks prior to this there were 1,078 and 772 new cases in Switzerland, according to worldinfometer.com.
Since the start of June 2020, the canton with the highest per capita infection rates has been Geneva, and this is the case now, according to corona-data.ch. By 13 August 2020, Geneva had recorded 22 infections per 10,000 since the beginning of June 2020. Geneva’s infection rate was more than double Vaud’s (10 per 10,000), the canton with the next highest rate.
If Geneva were a country, it would currently qualify for Switzerland’s mandatory quarantine list according to calculations done by RTS.
The neighbouring region of Haute Savoie in France has seen a rapid rise in cases. The UK decided to add France to its list of compulsory quarantine countries last night, along with the Netherlands. In their last weekly report, French authorities said new cases had risen by 42% week on week to more than 10,000. In the days following the report, new cases have risen further. The daily number on 13 August 2020 was 2,669, a figure not seen since May 2020.
It is likely that Switzerland is picking up a higher percentage of the total infections now than it was in April 2020 when tests were rationed and typically only available to those with symptoms in risk groups. Now tests are easier to get and the cost is covered by the government, removing some of the disincentive to getting tested.
Positivity rates, the percentage of tests coming back positive, suggest this might be so. In April 2020 positivity rate in Switzerland went as high as 18.5%. Recently, it has been around 3%. This suggests the real number of infections now might be closer to the recorded number than it was in April 2020.
However, there has been no rise in the number of tests in Switzerland since their peak in at the end of June 2020, which suggests there is real underlying growth in the number of new cases. The trouble with viruses is they spread exponentially and exponential growth is not intuitive. If cases were to double every day, one infection would grow to more than 1 million infections after 20 days.
It is also easy to take comfort in the low number of Covid-19 deaths in Switzerland recently. The problem with this is that deaths trail infections by several weeks and only really take off when viral spread gets out of control and finds its way into vulnerable segments of the population.
Jacques Fellay, an expert in the human genomics of infectious diseases at EPFL and a member of Switzerland’s federal Covid-19 task force, told RTS that he thinks “we are on a dangerous slope” and could be in for a “very complicated” autumn and winter if the rise in infections continues.
Fellay is particularly concerned about viral spread in enclosed spaces where infection can really take off. The large clusters of contamination identified so far are essentially occurring in enclosed spaces, he said, despite people spending more time outside over summer.
If the situation gets worse a return to lockdown cannot be ruled out. In Switzerland, it’s easy to imagine targeted regional confinement at the level of a town or village in the coming months, said the expert.