This week, 880 new Covid-19 cases were recorded in Switzerland, down 44% from the week before (1,576). The daily number of cases on a 7-day rolling average is now 126.
During the week, 22 people were reported being admitted to hospital in Switzerland with Covid-19. In addition, deaths were stable at 11, 2 higher than the week before. By the end of the week, Switzerland’s total Covid-19 death toll had reached 10,869.
The risk facing Switzerland now is probably the rise of the Delta variant, which first appeared in India. Delta spreads more easily than the original variant and there is also evidence that suggests the risk of hospitalisation is higher with it.
In the UK, where Covid-19 cases are rising significantly, the Delta variant makes up nearly 100% of samples sequenced. Over the four weeks to 24 June 2021, the total number of all daily recorded Covid-19 cases in the UK rose more than 4-fold to more than 16,000 daily new cases.
By 14 June 2021, 19% of all samples sequenced in Switzerland were Delta. A number of experts believe it is only a matter of time before the Delta variant becomes dominant across continental Europe.
Didier Trono, a virologist and member of the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force, thinks a new wave of infections could be on the way. Speaking to RTS he said that the population has until the end of September 2021 to vaccinate before a possible new wave of infections.
On 24 June 2021, the UK authorities added Spain’s Balearic Islands to its green list, a collection of countries from where British holiday makers need not quarantine upon return. Any Covid-19 cases brought to these party islands from the UK are almost certain to be the Delta variant.
In addition to faster spread and higher risk of hospitalisation, vaccine efficacy is lower against Delta, however, how much depends on the vaccine and the definition of efficacy.
The efficacy of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines seems to be similar against the Delta variant after one dose (33%), but varies after the second dose. After the second dose the Pfizer vaccine is 88% effective compared to 60% for the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on research by Public Health England. The study did not cover the Moderna vaccine.
Switzerland is using only the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines. The UK has been using these two plus the AstraZeneca vaccine, which accounts for around 60% of its total vaccinations.
However, it appears that the effectiveness of vaccines isn’t binary. Evidence suggests that vaccinated people who later catch the virus typically have less severe symptoms. So efficacy measured as the likelihood of avoiding hospital is higher than efficacy defined as not contracting the disease. In the UK, Data from Public Health England suggests that a single dose of vaccine reduces the chances of needing hospital treatment by roughly 75%.
Despite a 4-fold rise in cases in the UK over the 4 weeks to 20 June 2021, Covid-19, hospitalisations only rose by around 63% over the same period, suggesting vaccines help even when they’re not fully effective.
In Switzerland, around 32% of the population has received two doses of vaccine. In the UK the same rate is 47%. By 23 June 2021 around 49% of Switzerland’s population had been vaccinated with at least one dose and the number of doses per 100 had reached 81 in Switzerland.
On Wednesday 23 June 2021, Switzerland announced it was easing rules on entry into Switzerland. From Saturday, people entering Switzerland from the Schengen area will no longer be required to quarantine and entry from some countries outside the Schengen zone will be less restricted. The UK remains on Switzerland’s list of high risk countries with entry restrictions and quarantine requirements.
The Swiss government also announced that it is loosening a number of other restrictions including the reopening of nightclubs and large events to those with Covid certificates from Saturday 26 June 2021.
Last week the head of Switzerland’s vaccination commission said there is no need to be concerned by the Delta variant. The Swiss authorities seem to be betting on the continued uptake of vaccines and the vaccines’ ability to keep people out of hospital during any potential new wave of infections as Delta becomes the dominant variant.