Didier Pittet, head of the infection prevention and control at Geneva’s HUG hospital, responds to this question in an interview on RTS.
According to Pittet, the virus is now widespread and testing is only picking up around a third of actual cases, leaving many undetected patients to potentially spread the disease. Pittet described the current situation as hyperendemic, an epidemiological term that refers to persistent, high levels of disease.
Why have recent restrictions not worked?
The infectious disease expert thinks Switzerland was very late to ramp up testing after the first wave. By the time testing picked up there were too many cases and track and trace teams were quickly overloaded, leaving many cases undetected. Now we don’t know where all the infected are, he said. In addition, compliance with the measures has been poor.
With so much closed, how is the virus spreading?
The main vector is families. Not only actual families but also work families, sports club families and others, said Pittet. Masks, distance, ventilation and hygiene are critical here. Because we have lost track of the chains of transmission it is now very difficult to control the spread.
Why aren’t we testing enough?
Switzerland started very late, thinks Pittet. At the beginning there were not enough test sites. This has been remedied, but there is still insufficient testing capacity at some sites and too many people are failing to get tested. We need to be testing those with the mildest of symptoms so that we can identify mini cluster as early as possible and control the spread. If we did this we could reopen more sooner.
How do we get people to understand?
Pittet thinks the authorities need to run campaigns. We haven’t been good enough at explaining and education. In French-speaking Switzerland work is being done on a campaign to promote testing to get those with mild symptoms to test. According to the expert this is the way to get infection numbers down and allow reopening.
Do we need a 2-3 week lockdown to drastically reduce infections?
It depends on how people behave, he said. It is also critical to put everything required in place, such as more hand sanitiser in more places. We need people checking how many people enter retail spaces. If people are checked they follow the rules. If they’re not they don’t, he said. To prevent disease, protect the economy and society we need to ensure the equipment is in place and the rules are followed.