By John Revill and John Miller
ZURICH (Reuters) – The peak of Switzerland’s coronavirus epidemic could stretch into later this spring or summer, the head of the Swiss government’s communicable diseases division said on Tuesday, as the country’s death toll continued to rise.
The number of dead rose to 373, the country’s public health agency said, up from 295 people on Monday. The number of positive tests increased to 16,176 from 15,575, it said.
Daniel Koch, who has spearheaded the government’s response to the outbreak, said epidemics usually had periods where the numbers of infections rose before they subsided.
“We’re counting on an epidemic wave that will have not only a swelling aspect, but also one that wanes, and will not last for years, but rather has a visible time horizon,” Koch told a press conference in Lucerne. “We’re expecting that this wave will be over some time in spring (or) summer.”
Switzerland has so far carried out 123,000 tests and has opened a drive-thru testing facility in Lucerne which could be rolled out to other parts of the country.
Health Minister Alain Berset warned, however, that extraordinary measures to contain the virus would remain in force for some time, since vulnerable groups still need to be protected even once the number of infections began to subside.
The government has banned large gatherings, shuttered some businesses and emptied schools to prevent the spread of the virus. Berset urged people to follow the government’s advice, keep their distance and refrain from traditional spring rituals of congregating as the weather turns warm and lures them outside.
“It will last, we must show endurance,” Berset told reporters. “It will soon be soon be beautiful days and people will want to go out. This year, April will be a different kind of April.”
(Reporting by John Revill and John Miller; Editing by Michael Shields)